By Sally Egan
This weekend, the softball team (31-10, 7-5 Pac-12) hosts Arizona State (25-17, 5-10 Pac-12) in a three-day series that could launch Stanford into the elite echelon of the conference.
In the Pac-12, it appears there are three tiers of teams shaping up: the power houses: Arizona, UCLA and Washington, the mediocre teams: California, Oregon State, Utah, Oregon and Arizona State— and then Stanford. While the later five teams all having losing Pac-12 records and the top three teams all have double-digit Pac-12 wins, Stanford alone remains as the middle ground.
Key to the series for Stanford will be clutch hitters Whitney Burks, Teaghan Cowles and Montana Dixon. Burks, a redshirt senior, is hitting .346 with runners on, has a .426 on base percentage and leads the team with six home runs.
Cowles remains the team’s best hitter, batting .400, slugging .652 and has an astonishing 54 hits.
Finally, Dixon has reached base in 30 of the 32 games she’s played in and is currently on fire with a double, a triple and two homers in the last 10 games.
On the defensive side, Stanford is blessed with several impressive pitchers. Junior Kiana Pancino, senior Carolyn Lee and sophomore Maddy Dwyer are ranked ninth, 11th and 12th, respectively, in ERA in the Pac-12.
Last year, Stanford was swept by the Sun Devils, losing 3-4, 0-8 and 2-3 in a three-game series. In fact, the Cardinal has actually lost the last nine games against Arizona State, last winning on May 3rd, 2015. However, the teams are in completely different places this year. Stanford only won three of their 21 Pac-12 games last year, and Arizona State was ranked eighth in the country at the time.
The important players to look for on Arizona State are the Hackbarth twins and Morgan Howe. Kinda Hackbarth is batting an absurd .414, good for third in the Pac-12. Her twin Maddi isn’t as consistent but has 17 home runs on the season which also ties for third in the Pac-12. Howe bats a respectable .378 and leads the team with triples triples.
Fortunately for the Cardinal, the Sun Devils don’t have the same pitching firepower that Stanford does. If the Cardinal women can contain Arizona State’s high powered offense, a three game sweep in Stanford’s favor should be doable.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Friday at Stanford.
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu.