Softball Season Preview

Stanford softball opens its season Friday at Arizona State, in a tournament that includes No. 2 Oklahoma. Then the Card play five more tournaments, two at home and three on the road, before the start of Pac-12 season come spring. The Cardinal are ranked No. 21 nationally; however, six of the eight Pac-12 schools that compete in the sport rank higher.

Pitching is always the key in softball and Stanford returns Teagan Gerhart for her senior season. Teagan was just named one of the top 50 players in the nation, and was 32-13 last year. But at 2.89, her 2012 ERA was a run higher than her first two seasons'. Teagan gave up 43 homers last season, more than during her first two years combined. She must halve that figure, or better, for Stanford to have a great season.

Staying on the mound, Nyree White returns for her soph season. Last year, Nyree, the daughter of Oregon's head softball coach, was 8-6 with a 3.88 ERA.

Finally, Kelsey Stevens is a freshman pitcher who was All State in New Mexico all four years of high school.

Gerhart and Stevens throw hard, while White throws more junk than hard. All told, with a senior Gerhart leading the way, this should be our best staff in several years.

The catcher will be freshman Jessica Plaza, who played for the two-time premier national travel champions. Plaza is an excellent defensive catcher and a power hitter.

At first will be sophomore Erin Ashby, who didn't play much last season but was on the national travel champions with Plaza. Ashby was a High School All-American to boot.

Tegan Schmidt is the second Baseman, a sophomore who had some big clutch hits last season playing at DH and some at first base. Tegan hit just .205, but her 16 hits drove in 15 runs.

Jenna Rich is a senior and, like Gerhart, a top-50 player in the nation. Rich will return to shortstop where she is a great fielder and played as a freshman. Last season, she hit .368, led the team with 11 homers, and tied the school record with 66 RBIs. For her play, Rich was named an All-American.

Third base belongs to sophomore Hanna Winter, who played a lot of second last season when Rich couldn't play in the field. Winter batted at a .428 clip for 89 hits last year, both team highs. (The 89 hits are No. 3 in Stanford single-season history, and No. 1 for Stanford freshmen). With a 12.14 100-meter time, Winter's speed represents a serious threat; she stole 14 of 16 bases in 2012. Look for her, yet another preseason top-50 player, to run more yet this season.

In left field, there are two possibilities. Kayla Bronstrom is a freshman who was an All-American and Arizona's Player of the Year as a high school senior. She hit .529 over her four years of high school. Soph Alyssa Lombardo only got 10 at bats as a freshman, but has tremendous speed at 54 seconds in the 400, and is a many-time Pennsylvania sprint champion.

Senior Sarah Hassman in back in center field after missing almost all of 2012 with an ACL injury. She hit .398 in 2011 with 35 steals in 38 attempts. She too has tremendous speed, and would be a logical possibility for leadoff hitter.

Leah White will be in right field. As a freshman, White hit .362 last year, and was a high school All-American before that.

Danielle Miller figures to be the DH and hit .307 last season.

Key reserves include Tylyn Wells, a sophomore outfielder with tremendous speed who should pinch runner often, like Lombardo. Cassandra Rouland could play in the outfield or DH, after hitting .284 last year. Lauren Donovan is a sophomore first baseman or DH. Corey Hanewich hit .294 with five HRs as a freshman in 2011, with a great second half. She broke her arm just before the NCAAs and had a down season last year. Finally, Kaitlin Schaberg is a freshman infielder who could play at second.

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