By David Cohn
In the midst of the Stanford softball program’s most difficult season since the mid-1990s, the Cardinal’s Pac-12 schedule will continue to offer no breaks, as Stanford (16-26, 1-11 Pac-12) welcomes No. 1 Oregon (35-5, 13-2 Pac-12) to Smith Family Stadium for a three-game series beginning on Saturday afternoon.
While top-ranked Oregon will be coming off victories over Arizona State, Stanford went 0-3 against No. 9 UCLA last weekend and has lost its last seven games.
With the Cardinal rotation devastated by injuries, Stanford has had to turn to position players to pitch in the circle. As such, with Oregon posting a Pac-12-best .380 batting average in conference play, the Ducks will certainly pose a daunting challenge for Stanford’s pitchers, who have maintained an 11.17 team ERA in 12 conference games.
Oregon’s top-ranked offense has been led by freshman Gwen Svekis, who has a .455 batting average with 5 home runs and 23 RBIs through the Ducks’ first 40 games. The Cardinal will also have to be mindful of junior Koral Costa, who represents the premier power bat in Oregon’s high-flying offense: With 12 homers, Costa is currently tied for fifth in the conference in home runs. However, aside from Costa’s slugging power, the 2014 All Pac-12 Second Team selection has also notched an outstanding .367 batting average.
In the circle, the Ducks are led by star pitcher and NFCA First Team All-American Cheridan Hawkins. Widely recognized as the best pitcher in the Pac-12 Conference, Hawkins has had yet another sensational season in the circle. In 19 starts and 120 innings pitched, Hawkins has posted a measly 1.11 ERA, with opponents only managing to hit .132 off of the 2014 Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year.
Senior and No. 2 Ducks starter Karissa Hovinga is also a capable pitcher, with a 3.35 ERA in 12 starts, giving the Ducks a powerful 1-2 pitching combination with Women’s College World Series and international softball experience.
Stanford will counter with an upperclassman-filled lineup on offense, led by junior Kayla Bonstrom. Bonstrom has had a standout season, with a .444 batting average and 45 RBIs to go along with 10 home runs.
Senior Hanna Winter, who recently moved to third all-time in stolen bases in program history, has also shone this year for the Cardinal, with a .395 batting average, a .545 on-base percentage and 10 stolen bases.
The series starts off at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, followed by an afternoon game at noon on Sunday and the finale at 7 p.m. on Monday.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.