By Sally Egan
The Stanford softball team opens another season today in Tempe, Arizona against Bradley, but don’t expect them to be like previous Cardinal teams. While Stanford softball doesn’t have the elite reputation of other teams on campus, there are many reasons to believe that they could be in for a special season this year.
To start with, it should be noted that the Pac-12 is arguably the toughest conference in the country. Four of the eight teams in the College Softball World Series last year were from the Pac-12 and conference foes UCLA and Washington open the season ranked first and second, respectively.
Despite the unavoidably difficult schedule, the team has gotten progressively better in each of its past three seasons, going from 13-25 in 2016, to 19-32 in 2017 and finally 24-31 last season. This bodes well for this upcoming season, especially as Stanford returns six starters, including their top four hitters, and all four of their pitchers.
Leading the pack on offensive is a strong junior class, featuring team-leading hitters Hannah Howell, Teaghan Cowles and Kristina Inouye. On defense, sophomore pitcher Maddy Dwyer looks to build off of a decent 2.46 ERA.
Stanford’s kryptonite last season was road games. While the Cardinal were almost .500 at home (12-14) and 9-6 at neutral sites, they went a whopping 3-11 on the road. With 17 of their 32 home games coming against 2018 tournament teams, Stanford’s road record must change if they want to achieve a winning record this season for the first time since 2014.
In addition to winning road games, another key to this Cardinal season will be the performance of the freshman class. Of the 20 players on the roster this year, seven are freshmen — one pitcher and six field players.
Last season, former player and alum Jessica Allister, who was poached from Minnesota, debuted as the head coach for the softball team. In 2017, she coached the Gophers to a 54-8 record and their first number one ranking in program history. She appeared in the College Softball World Series four times during her career as a Stanford player, and both her coaching and playing records likely contributed to her hire. Allister looks to continue building a strong Cardinal softball program, which she started last season with an improvement in record.
Stanford plays Bradley, Kansas, Western Michigan, Seattle and Weber State this weekend at the Kajikawa Classic at Arizona State University.
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu.