By Jeremy Rubin
“We’re excited to be on the field,” said coach Jessica Allister following the softball team’s (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) season-opening 3-0 victory against Grand Canyon University (0-1, 0-0 WAC) on Thursday.
The Cardinal played perfect softball defensively from the opening pitch. Junior Maddy Dwyer was in the circle and fired 7.1 innings of four-hit, shutout ball before handing it off to senior Kiana Pancino. Pancino, the 2019 Pac-12 leader in saves, picked up where Dwyer had left off with two quick outs to finish off the Antelopes.
Opposing starter Ryan Denhart held her own, however, keeping Stanford off the board through seven strong innings. In extra innings she handed the ball off to Lexy Coons after giving up three runs, one of which was earned.
Abiding by “International Tie Breaker” rules, both teams started with a runner on second base to begin the eighth inning. Senior outfielder Alyssa Horeczko reached on an error to open the frame, allowing the runner, senior outfielder Hannah Howell, to come around to score the first run of the ballgame. The Cardinal’s clutch offense wasn’t done, however; sophomore outfielder Taylor Gindlesperger ripped a double to left center, plating Horeczko. Gindlesperger came around to score on a single by freshman infielder Sydnee Huff, extending the lead to 3.
Gindlesperger finished 2-3 on the day, chipping in a run and RBI each. Stanford had just four hits in the contest but got them when it mattered.
“It’s a good start, coming out and getting a W the first game of the season. Good pitching, great defense and we found a way to score some runs,” Allister said.
Clutch hitting, good defense and pitching proved to be the recipe for success for the Cardinal. Dwyer’s five strikeouts and poise under pressure set the tone for the team, the latter of which was especially on display. After a single, walk and bases loaded bases in the first, Dwyer found the strike zone and induced a groundout to finish the frame. Dwyer settled in after that, scattering just three singles, a walk and a hit batter the next 6.1 innings in an efficient 105 pitches.
The Cardinal will turn right around and prepare to face New Mexico and again Grand Canyon University tomorrow for day two of the GCU Kickoff Tournament. The team will play a total of six games over four days.
Tomorrow’s game times are 1 p.m. PT and 5:30 p.m. PT, respectively, in Phoenix, Arizona.
Contact Jeremy Rubin at jjmrubin ‘at’ stanford.edu.