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Softball claims Utah series with Sunday’s six-run second inning

The Cardinal carry its best record since 2010

Junior relief pitcher Kiana Pancino (above) entered the game after the departure of sophomore starting pitcher Maddy Dwyer. Pancino secured her second save of the series after taking over in the fifth. (KAREN AMBROSE HICKEY/isiphotos.com)

When it jumped to a fourth-inning lead in the first game of a home series against Utah (14-26, 3-9 Pac-12) last Friday, No. 25 softball (30-7, 7-2 Pac-12) looked destined for a sweep. It wasn’t in Stanford’s cards, however, as Utah came back with a two-run homer in the sixth that gave the Utes a 2-1 lead they would hold for the rest of the game.

Friday’s game was just the second time this year that Stanford has lost after scoring the first run of a game. Stanford is now 22-2 in such games. And the pitching wasn’t the problem, as senior Carolyn Lee tossed a complete game in which the two-run homer was the only blemish. The Cardinal had just four hits on the day to Utah’s five.

Saturday, however, was a different story, as the Cardinal doubled their hit count and tripled their score en route to a 6-3 victory over the Utes. There was no holding back after Friday’s upset loss, as juniors Kristina Inouye and Montana Dixon hit back-to-back homers in the first inning for a 2-0 lead.

After Stanford tacked on two more runs in the fourth, the Utes — hitless through four innings — scrambled for a comeback, which began looking feasible after sophomore starting pitcher Maddy Dwyer gave up a two-run homer to Hailey Hilburn in the fifth. Dwyer left the game shortly afterward.

Stanford’s offense never let its foot off the gas, though, responding in the sixth with yet another two-run inning. Junior relief pitcher Kiana Pancino, who entered the game after Dwyer’s departure, was also the victim of a Hilburn homer. But no other Utes player mustered an RBI, and Stanford escaped with the win to even the series.

Sunday saw another six-run effort from Stanford, but this time — instead of spreading the love — the Cardinal packed all six into the second inning. And the runs came on only four hits, none of which were homers, as shaky Utah pitching paved the way for 10 batters to take the plate.

While Utah picked up six hits on the day, the pitching duo of Pancino and Lee controlled the damage. They allowed just one run each, Lee in the fourth and Pancino in the sixth, as the latter secured her second save of the series after taking over in the fifth.

A much greater challenge faces the Cardinal this week, as the team takes its best record since 2010 on the road to No. 8 Arizona. The Pac-12 powerhouses will face off in a three-game series starting at 6 p.m. on April 18.

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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