By David Cohn
The last home series of 2015 for the Stanford softball team may go in the books as an Arizona State series win, but the Cardinal salvaged their final home game of the 2015 season in dramatic fashion, stunning the No. 23 Sun Devils on Sunday in a 4-2, nine-inning marathon.
Sunday’s turnaround was a particularly welcome sight after the Cardinal got demolished in the first game of the three-game set, with the Sun Devils routing Stanford by a 20-0 margin in five innings. ASU senior Haley Steele had two doubles as part of a 5-RBI day, with Jennifer Soria going deep to help propel her to drive home four more runs.
The Cardinal suffered an incredibly rough fifth inning, with Arizona State dropping 10 runs on 10 hits; the inning was compounded by an infield error that helped lead to 6 unearned runs of the 10 total runs in the frame.
While Stanford’s pitching rotation of position players struggled to keep up with a high-powered ASU offense in the circle on Friday, the Stanford offense was also completely overmatched in the series opener against ASU freshman Breanna Macha. Macha picked up her 15th win of the season in a brilliant 1-hit performance, with the freshman also not conceding a single walk in an efficient 51-pitch outing.
Saturday’s contest saw a much better offensive performance from Stanford, with the Cardinal jumping out to an early 2-0 lead on junior Kayla Bonstrom’s double to left-center field as part of a 3-RBI day. Stanford starter sophomore Kylie Sorenson, who normally starts in the infield for the Cardinal, also turned in a solid performance for Stanford through the first three innings, holding ASU scoreless.
However, Stanford’s efforts on Saturday were doomed by four costly errors leading to 7 unearned runs, which ultimately proved to be an overwhelming burden on both Sorenson and senior Stanford reliever and normal second baseman Erin Ashby. On the back of these four errors, ASU dropped 16 combined runs over the final three innings to run away from the Cardinal 16-6.
Steele turned in another great performance for the Sun Devils, going 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored, with Elizabeth Caporuscio also notching 3 RBIs to go along with her 10th double of the season.
Finally, in Sunday’s finale, Stanford turned in a much better defensive showing and got a sensational set of performances in the circle from Sorenson and Ashby to help the Card outlast ASU 4-2.
Sorenson and Ashby combined in nine innings to hold a powerful Arizona State offense, which had dropped 36 combined runs on the Cardinal over the first two games to a single earned run. Sorenson continued to rely on inducing ground balls to record outs for Stanford, forcing seven Sun Devil groundouts to only two flyouts. In contrast, Ashby relied on flyouts to shut down the vaunted ASU attack, with 12 forced flyouts to go along with six groundouts.
Sorenson and Ashby also had tremendous success at forcing ASU to strand runners, with the Sun Devils going 3-for-15 with runners on base.
Ashby also helped her own cause in the circle by starting a rally in the bottom of the seventh from a 2-0 deficit. The La Crescenta, California native jumped on the first pitch from Macha and drove it into the left-center field shrubs behind Smith Family Stadium; Ashby’s homer was her sixth of the year and cut the lead in half. Stanford would then tie the contest and send it into extra innings on an RBI single through the left side from sophomore Lauren Bertoy.
After both sides were held in check by Ashby and Macha, respectively, in the eighth, it would be up to the Stanford offense in the bottom of the ninth to deliver the game for the Cardinal. A single from junior Jessica Plaza in the ninth got Stanford’s rally started before freshman Victoria Molina ended the game with a towering shot to left field for her third home run of the season in only 19 at-bats. For Molina, it was definitely the biggest hit yet of her career, and it gave Stanford’s seniors a tremendous win in their final home game.
“She had some tough at-bats earlier in the game, but she stayed focused and it was great for her to step up and deliver in such a big way,” said head coach Rachel Hanson about Molina’s home run.
Stanford concludes its season this coming weekend in Berkeley against Cal.
Contact David Cohn at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu.