By Sally Egan
Friday marks an exciting day for Stanford athletics because for the first time since 2013, the softball team (32-18, 8-13 Pac-12) will be competing in the postseason. After years of rebuild and mediocrity, the team is finally one of the most exciting to watch amongst Stanford sports.
The team starts against Boise State (34-14, 12-12 Mountain West) at 9:00 a.m. P.T. and then will play either No. 5 Florida (44-15, 12-12 SEC) or Boston University (37-18, 15-2 Patriot League), depending on the results of both games.
In this round of playoffs, there are 64 teams competing at 16 regional sites in a double elimination style mini tournament. Thus, even if Stanford loses to Boise State, they could still have a shot at advancing to Super Regionals if they win their next two games.
The favorite to win the region is clearly Florida, but some felt the Gators were over-ranked in the tournament. While they won the SEC tournament by beating Alabama, they lost to the Crimson Tide three times earlier in the season. This, plus the Cardinal’s No. 28 RPI ranking has led to some picking Stanford as a potential Cinderella team in the tournament.
For the Cardinal, the major keys to this weekend will be improving hitting and not allowing opponents to have one “big” inning. Last weekend against No. 2 Washington (45-7, 20-4 Pac-12), both of these areas contributed to Stanford getting swept. The Cardinal had 14 hits in three games compared to the Huskies’ 27.
While junior Montana Dixon had an excellent weekend at the plate, going five for eight in the series, other typically strong hitters like juniors Teaghan Cowles and Hannah Howell were quiet throughout the weekend. Stanford will need Dixon to continue her hot streak, as well as require more contribution from others, to have a chance at advancing past this weekend.
Over the course of both the Washington series and the previous series against No. 3 UCLA (46-5, 18-3 Pac-12), there were several games determined by “big innings” against Stanford. For example, in the first and second games against the Huskies, the Cardinal was outscored a combined 13 to 2, but 11 of these runs came in the fifth inning of both games. Eliminate one bad inning like that, and Stanford may have upset Washington.
Looking ahead to the first game against Boise State, Stanford will have to watch out for Kora Wade, who leads the team with a .418 batting average, and Bradie Fillmore, who has 15 home runs on the season. Fortunately, the Broncos pitching staff doesn’t appear nearly as strong as Stanford’s, so the Cardinal should be able to get some hits while being led defensively by senior Carolyn Lee on the mound.
Stanford plays Boise State Friday at 9 a.m. and then will definitely be playing on Saturday at either 11:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. PT.
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu.