By Sally Egan
Stanford softball’s spectacular season came to an end on Saturday when Boise State (36-16, 12-12 Mountain West) defeated the Cardinal (33-20, 8-13 Pac-12) for the second time in the weekend and sent Stanford home. Boise State subsequently was eliminated yesterday by No. 5 Florida (47-15, 12-12 SEC), who will advance to the super regional round.
In their first game of the Gainesville regional, the Cardinal played Boise State at 9 a.m. PST in hot and humid Florida. Neither team played well offensively at the beginning with only four hits between the two teams combined in the first three innings.
Things started heating up, however, in the top of the fourth, starting with a Boise State homer. This ended up being the first of five hits for the Broncos in that innings, which, combined with one error, led to a huge 5-0 lead. Stanford could not respond offensively, and while they managed to prevent the Broncos from scoring more runs in the following two innings, they were unable to chip away at the Boise State lead. Junior Nikki Bauer did an excellent job in relief pitching, allowing only two hits from when she took over in the middle of the fourth through the sixth.
Boise State had another offensive run, though, which wasn’t helped by Stanford committing another error which led to four unearned runs. While errors and a single by junior Teaghan Cowles led to the Cardinal scoring one in the bottom of the seventh, it wasn’t enough to overcome their earlier defensive mistakes and they lost 9-1.
Stanford followed this up with one of their best offensive performances all year on Saturday in the subsequent game against Boston University (37-20, 15-2 Patriot league). Faced with the scenario of needing a win in order to stay alive, the Cardinal started out slow but then had an explosive second half.
The Terriers put up runs first, in the bottom of the second in one of the uglier plays Stanford’s defense has committed all season. Two errors in the same play allowed for the Boston batter to go all the way around the bases and they took the 2-0 lead.
Despite all the momentum being against them, Stanford rallied hard in the top of the third. With two outs and no one on base, junior Hannah Howell reached first on an error, and then junior Kristina Inouye advanced her one more base with a single. Junior Montana Dixon doubled to tie the score and suddenly, the momentum switched towards Stanford. The Terriers were clearly flustered as various Cardinal continued getting on base, but no hit was more impressive than redshirt senior Whitney Burks’ absolute blast to deep left field, bringing three runs in. By the time the dust settled, the Cardinal had scored six runs on four hits and two errors in the inning.
The Cardinal did not take their foot off the gas, racking up another five runs in the next inning. In the end, Stanford mercy ruled Boston University 13-2 in five innings.
Particularly impressive performances came from senior pitcher Carolyn Lee, who only allowed three hits in four innings pitched, Inouye, who went 3-3 with two runs, Dixon, who went 2-3 with 3 RBI, and Burks, who went 2-3 with 3 RBI.
Sadly, the second game of the day did not go as well for Stanford. Faced with less than an hour of turnaround time, the Cardinal had to quickly shift gears and turn their focus to a Boise State rematch. This was a tight game, and Stanford played remarkably well considering how much less time they had than Boise State did to prepare.
Both teams played error-free ball through the first four innings, and the two teams combined for only four hits in this time. Eager to get something started, Cowles singled, but then the right fielder committed an error and the ball rolled back towards the edge of the field. Cowles rounded the bases and tried to score but got thrown out at home. Unfortunately, the fire Cowles showed woke up the sleeping Broncos offense, and they scored two runs off of four hits in the bottom of the fifth. Neither team would score again, and Stanford’s season ended in a 2-0 loss to Boise State.
While it was heartbreaking for the season to end, it could only be considered a success. While The Daily predicted that the season could be special for the Cardinal, few outside of Palo Alto were convinced that Stanford would rise above their previous struggles. Not only did softball rise, however, they proved they are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years — as four freshmen worked their way into the starting lineup by the end of the season.
While Burks, Lee and fellow seniors Lauren Frost and Molly Fowkes will be missed, they can be proud of the foundation they set. No one will underestimate the Cardinal after this spectacular season.
Contact Sally Egan at egansj18 ‘at’ stanford.edu.