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Softball experiences moments of brilliance, but mixed results at the Mary Nutter Classic

STANFORD, CA - May 3, 2015: The Stanford Cardinal vs Arizona State Sun Devils in softball at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium in Stanford, California. Final score, Stanford 4, Arizona State 2.

A 5-3 victory against No. 17 Missouri (9-2) highlighted an up-and-down weekend for Stanford softball (7-7) at the Mary Nutter Classic in Cathedral City, California last Thursday through Sunday.

STANFORD, CA - May 3, 2015: The Stanford Cardinal vs Arizona State Sun Devils in softball at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium in Stanford, California. Final score, Stanford 4, Arizona State 2.
Junior outfielder Bessie Nole (above) provided both offensive and defensive power in the Cardinal’s 5-3 victory over No. 17 Missouri, making two catches at the wall and scoring two runs for Stanford. (DAVID BERNAL/isiphoto.com)

The Cardinal rode a strong outing from starting pitcher freshman Carolyn Lee to hand the Tigers their first defeat of the season on Thursday. Lee’s composure, combined with a strong defensive efforts from junior outfielder Bessie Noll and freshman infielder Lauren Frost, helped keep Stanford in the driver’s seat as it earned just its second win against a ranked team in its last 23 attempts, stretching back to last season.

“What a gutty performance from a freshman,” said head coach Rachel Hanson of Lee. “That’s one of the best offensive teams in the country and she showed no fear from start to finish.”

Noll proved a key contributor on both offense and defense, making two catches at the wall to prevent the Tigers from building momentum and scoring two of the Cardinal’s runs off a third-inning solo home run and a sixth-inning double in which she was batted in by senior catcher Jessica Plaza. Sophomore utility Whitney Burks added another home run as Stanford capitalized on efficient hitting to down its opponent.

“We did all the little things today and were focused each pitch of the game,” Hanson said. “We had players going all out, making diving catches and swinging aggressively.”

The Cardinal, which had struggled to score in recent games, managed to carry some of this newfound offensive momentum into their Friday game against San Jose State (5-11). Though the team initially fell behind after the Spartans managed two runs in the top of the first inning, the Cardinal capitalized on two four-run innings in order to put away their local rival by a 9-3 scoreline.

Noll again proved to be the Cardinal’s leader offensively, batting in three runs off an two-run double and a sacrifice fly. Sophomore catcher Victoria Molina notched a two-run home run that ignited Stanford’s pivotal fourth-inning momentum, while sophomore pitcher Haley Snyder recovered from her shaky first inning to put together a nice outing in the circle, completing her second game of the season and striking out seven batters.

Stanford couldn’t continue its streak the next day against Boise State (3-12), which inexplicably caught fire early in the tournament despite being winless before its leadoff game on Friday. A series of costly third-inning errors by the Cardinal allowed the Broncos to break an early deadlock and establish a 6-1 lead, putting the game out of reach as Boise ultimately triggered the mercy rule with a 9-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth.

Snyder appeared to be off to another solid start, allowing just one earned run in three innings of play. However, the third inning quickly descended into chaos after sophomore third basemen Arden Pettit missed a two-out throw to first base, allowing a Boise player to score and extending the inning.

The next two Broncos batters drove in another run and managed to keep Boise at the plate before a base hit from Laina Holmgren was mishandled by Noll, driving in two more runs. These tough breaks combined with a stagnant Stanford offense that managed just four hits prevented the Cardinal from seriously threatening the Broncos.

The team managed to salvage something from the day, however, with a 15-9 win in a high-scoring game against NC State (6-8) on Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinal effectively reversed their sluggish morning performance against the Wolfpack, landing 15 hits from eight different players as they recorded their highest run total of the season. Noll and Plaza led the explosive effort, hitting a combined 7-for-7 and each earning 2 RBIs in the remarkable turnaround effort.

Lee couldn’t match the consistency of her earlier game against Missouri, but the freshman still did her part to keep the Wolfpack at bay. The pitcher gave up seven earned runs in her complete game performance, a figure that was more than made up for by the Cardinal’s offensive efficiency.

Stanford’s generally strong tournament showing returned to earth a bit on Sunday, however, as the team ended the weekend on a 7-4 loss to San Diego State (10-5).

The Aztecs took an early lead behind a strong combination of hitting in the third inning and a two-run homer in the fourth off Lee. The Cardinal responded with three home runs in the fourth inning – solo shots from Frost and Molina and a two-run strike from junior infielder Kylie Sorenson – but the offense couldn’t bring Stanford any closer than that, even as Snyder effectively relieved Lee by allowing just one earned run in the final 3.2 innings.

Stanford will head to Honolulu for their next tournament this weekend, a five-game series that will pit them thrice against Coastal Carolina and twice against Hawaii. The Cardinal will kick things off against Costal Carolina this Friday at 2:30 p.m.

 

Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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