“There’s three aspects of the game—pitching, hitting and defense,” said head coach Jessica Allister following softball’s performance at its home invitational. “If you can get any of the two on any given day, you’ve got a chance to win.”
The Cardinal (9-2, 0-0 Pac-12) did just that, winning all four games of the Stanford Invitational this weekend at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium. Stanford played against Hofstra (1-3, 0-0 CAA) Friday and Saturday, winning both by scores of 3-0 and 1-0. On Saturday and Sunday, the Cardinal battled Drake (4-4, 0-0 MVC), beating the Bulldogs 8-4 in the first game and dominating the second in 9-0 fashion.
Pitching and defense were at the center of Stanford’s success. The weekend’s starters, junior Maddy Dwyer and freshmen Tatum Boyd and Alana Vawter, all pounded the strike zone and had quality outings in the circle.
Up first against Hofstra, Dwyer toed the circle for Stanford and pitched a gem, scattering just three hits and two walks while going the distance. She racked up six strikeouts and finished the outing in an efficient 87 pitches to lead Stanford to a 1-0 victory.
“Dwyer was great in game one,” Allister said.
In game two on Saturday, Boyd kept her team out in front against Drake. She pitched into the sixth inning while throwing 91 pitches, striking out two and giving up just two runs through the first five innings.
After allowing a leadoff double to begin the sixth, Allister brought in senior Kiana Pancino to close the door on Drake and preserve the 5-2 lead. The normally reliable Pancino, however, who led the Pac-12 in saves last season, was unable to escape trouble. She was relieved by fellow senior Nikki Bauer after walking two and hitting a batter while only recording two outs. Her defense also didn’t help her, as an error kept the Drake inning alive.
With the score now 5-4 and Stanford clinging to a one-run lead, Bauer faced Bulldogs senior Sarah Maddox, who is hitting well above .300 on the season. Bauer bested her, beating her inside and inducing a weak line drive to shortstop to preserve the lead.
“[Nikki Bauer’s relief appearance was] unbelievable. That’s a huge situation. To pound the zone, get the out,” Allister said. “She got her opportunity and it was great to see her step up and take advantage of it.”
Boyd then closed out the game with a scoreless seventh, and Stanford won 8-4.
Not to be overshadowed by the performances of the Saturday pitchers, Vawter finished a walk and a hit away from perfection in Stanford’s dominant 9-0 mercy-rule victory over Drake. Vawter threw six scoreless innings in just 64 pitches to do her part in clinching the win for the Cardinal.
“After a rough first weekend, [Vawter] had a great weekend,” Allister said. “I was proud of her resilience there.”
On the offensive side, contributions came from all across the lineup in the form of timely hits in the first two games before the Cardinal delivered again against Drake in Sunday’s contest.
The winning formula for each of the four games was simple: Score first.
Freshman outfielder Kaitlyn Lim’s homer against Hofstra on Saturday, the first of her career, gave the Cardinal a 1-0 lead in the first inning. This proved to be all the cushion Dwyer needed in the contest, as she mowed down Hofstra batters throughout the seven innings.
Against Drake on Saturday, the entire lineup got in on the action at the plate.
Cowles walked to lead off the game, followed by another walk to sophomore Taylor Gindlesperger. A single from Lim quickly made it 2-0 Cardinal. Thanks to a double from freshman Sydney Steele and a single from senior Kristina Inouye, Stanford plated three runs before Drake recorded an out.
A fourth came around to score on sophomore Emily Schultz’s RBI groundout. Following another walk to sophomore Emily Young, senior Hannah Howell roped a single into center field to score the fifth run of the inning. If not for an unlucky double play off a line drive hit by senior Montana Dixon, Drake may have never escaped the first.
“We were aggressive in the first inning and really competitive,” Allister said.
The Cardinal scored three more in the bottom of the sixth, and it began the same as the top of the first: a Cowles leadoff walk. One Gindlesperger double, Steele single, and Inouye double later, Stanford took the field for the top of the seventh with a comfortable 8-4 lead, which Bauer easily maintained to finish off the win.
On Sunday, Stanford waited until the second inning to wake up the bats. The Cardinal plated five, all with two outs, to jump out to an early 5-0 lead. Lim again was the center of the two-out rally, as her triple to right center cleared the bases and left her a double short of the cycle on the weekend.
Gindlesperger’s RBI single in the fourth and Lim’s subsequent RBI groundout extended the lead to seven for Stanford.
In the sixth, following a bunt single by Howell, Cowles squared up the 3-2 pitch of her at-bat and hit it deep over the left-center wall, sealing the 9-0 shutout Cardinal victory.
“We came out and we shot the team down and put them away very quickly,” Cowles said. “It speaks volumes to this team’s offensive potential, which is awesome.”
This weekend marked a strong debut for Lim, who scored her first career home run in her first week playing at her home stadium as a college athlete.
“It was just super fun,” Lim said. “Playing softball in front of the crowd…It’s really nice to be on our home field.”
The freshman hailing from Irvine managed an RBI in every single game played this weekend. So far in the season, Lim has recorded a batting average of .361 and a slugging percentage of .556, both in the top-five on the team. On Sunday, Lim had a stunning triple against Drake that edged Stanford’s lead to a 5-0 from the bottom of the second inning, contributing to what was a dominant six-inning win.
“[Lim]’s doing great, she can really hit,” Allister said. “I think she doesn’t look like a freshman, she’s confident … she did a great job.”
Over the weekend, Gindlesberger overcame what was a relatively weak start to finish strong. In her first two games, she started 1-for-7 at the plate, a weak performance for the team’s second-most efficient batter (.444).
Gindlesperger demonstrated resilience in a stunning turnaround, where she hit a perfect 4-for-4 against Drake. She secured a RBI single on the first game and two on the second.
Howell, who leads the Cardinal in batting average, proved a strong performance from the onset, where she was a 3-for-3 in the first game against Hofstra. On Sunday’s game against Drake, the senior outfielder had two hits in three plate appearances.
Despite faltering in the middle innings of both Saturday games, the offense’s showing on Sunday and timely hitting throughout the weekend left Stanford with optimism for the coming year. The pitchers, meanwhile, have been nothing short of dominant in the team’s first 12 games of the season.
“We showed a lot of toughness,” Allister said of the demanding weekend action that came hot-on-the-heels of Stanford’s doubleheader on Thursday, when Stanford lost the first game 5-4, but used a Gindlesperger walk off, two-run home run in game two to split the day with visiting Seattle University.
The Cardinal will remain on the Farm and welcome Fresno State on Tuesday before a series against Nevada next weekend.
First pitch on Tuesday is set for 5:30 p.m. PT at Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium.