Softball downs UMass, reaches Super Regionals

Missy Penna committed two first-inning errors in a 2-1 loss to Massachusetts, the first game of a Sunday doubleheader. She simply bounced back from the gaffes with a game two no-hitter, as the Card took the Regional Championship with a 6-0 win. They now visit Texas A&M for their first Super Regional in two years. Win, and Stanford has its first College World Series berth since 2004.

Regional Championship:
No. 8 Stanford 6, No. 20 Massachusetts 0

Stanford (49-13) 310 Regional Championship:
No. 8 Stanford 6, No. 20 Massachusetts 0

Stanford (49-13) 310 020 0
Massachusetts (42-13) 000 000 0

WP: Penna (37-11)
, 7 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 9 K, 2 BB
LP: Balschmiter, Brandice (31-8), 7 IP, 6 R, 4 ER, 11 H, 7 K, 3 BB

For Missy Penna, it was her fourth career no-hitter and second of the season. For catcher Rosey Neill, a solo homer in the fifth was her 19th on the season, tying the school record senior third baseman Michelle Smith set her freshman year.

For Massachusetts ace Brandice Balschimter, who came into the contest leading the nation in ERA, the loss saw her give up the most runs of her season -- and just her second homer.

For Stanford, it was simply one of those games.

Penna came into the contest with no earned runs to her name through 21 innings of work in the Amherst, Mass. Regional. So the Cardinal had to feel pretty good about their odds after just half an inning, as shortstop Maddy Coon's double, Neill's single to center and first baseman Erin Howe's two-out single up the middle each plated a run, putting the Card ahead 3-0.

"I think a big theme in our series with UMass was scoring first," Penna said in a postgame press conference. "In all three games, the team that scored first won. It was a relief that we scored first, so we could play our game without being so tight and tense."

A walk and a Penna error put on two Minutewomen in the first, and third baseman Whitney Mollica reached as far as third after walking in the fourth. But a Sarah Reeves groundout got Stanford out of the first, and catcher Jessica Serio's full-count looking strikeout in the fourth killed Massachusetts' last real hope.

With no Massachusetts players scratching out a hit, the Minutewomen went 1-2-3 the other five innings, as Penna mixed a drop, screwball and curveball to devastating effect. In a lose-and-go-home game, it was a dominant, clutch performance befitting Stanford softball's unquestionable MVP.

"As a coach, you do not want to jinx the no-hitter, but you are always thinking about it," Rittman said. "In the third and fifth innings, I glanced up, but I forgot about it until the last inning and thought, `Hopefully nobody jinxes this thing.' For her to have that type of a performance in a game of that magnitude is an outstanding achievement for her and our program."

Second baseman Shannon Koplitz's second-inning single to right center scored leadoff hitter Alicia Haber, the centerfielder.

After Neill's homer in the fifth, leftfielder Tricia Aggabao's one-out sac fly scored Haber for the game's final run.

"Coach was positive with us in between games," said Neill, as Stanford started the Regional Final just thirty minutes after Massachusetts' 2-1 win earlier Sunday afternoon. "He told us he knew we could win this game -- we just had to make a few hitting adjustments. The second game almost felt as if it started in the sixth inning of the first when we started hitting and getting on a roll. We were beginning to see pitches and hit them well. We definitely kept it going."

Neill, whose three hits were a game-high, and No. 12-seed (but No. 8-ranked) Stanford now visit No. 5-seed Texas A&M for the best-of-three Super Regionals. The Cardinal last advanced to the Super Regionals two years ago, losing at Alabama in two games.

Stanford last advanced out of a Super Regional and into the College World Series in 2004. Stanford has never won the CWS, with their only other appearance in the eight-team final coming in 2001.

Sunday:
No. 20 Massachusetts 2, No. 8 Stanford 1

Massachusetts (42-13) 200 000 0
Stanford (49-13) 000 000 1

WP: Balschmiter, Brandice (31-7), 7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 6 H, 6 K, 0 BB
LP: Penna (36-11), 7 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 H, 5 K, 1 BB

With neither pitcher allowing an earned run, it was Penna's fielding mistakes in the first that ultimately cost Stanford a chance to close out the Minutewomen early Sunday afternoon, forcing the Regional Final.

The Minutewomen drew first blood soon after their first two batters, Whitney Williams and Lauren Proctor, reached base on a Penna throwing error and single, respectively. A Neill passed ball advanced the runners to second and third, so that Mollica's groundout to short scored Williams. Then, rightfielder Samantha Salato, the cleanup hitter, reached on another Penna error, scoring Proctor. But a Salato mistake would end the inning, as she was thrown out trying for third on catcher's Jessica Serio single two batters later.

Stanford was lucky to give up only two runs in an inning that saw Penna commit two errors and yield two hits, but Balschmiter and Massachusetts' defense made the margin stand up.

The Cardinal's best shot early came in the third inning, as consecutive two-out Haber and Koplitz singles set the stage for Coon.

Coon, however, struck out swinging on a 1-2 count.

Stanford went 1-2-3 in the first and fourth and managed only one base runner in each of the second, fifth and sixth innings, so the Card's chances looked bleak as Smith walked to the plate to start the bottom of the seventh. But two consecutive singles, this time from the seniors Smith and Howe, again created a scoring opportunity. Then, designated player Melisa Koutz reached on an error, loading the bases with none out for Tricia Aggabao.

Aggabao's sac fly to center scored Stanford's only run of the game, but Massachusets was able to hold Stanford's other two pinch runners at first and second. Therefore, on rightfielder Anna Beardman's grounder the next at-bat, the defense could force out the lead runner, freshman Autumn Albers.
With two out and runners on first and second, Haber took a first-pitch ball, but three Balschmitter consecutive strikes, the sophomore struck out looking to end the game.


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020 0
Massachusetts (42-13) 000 000 0

WP: Penna (37-11)
, 7 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 9 K, 2 BB
LP: Balschmiter, Brandice (31-8), 7 IP, 6 R, 4 ER, 11 H, 7 K, 3 BB

For Missy Penna, it was her fourth career no-hitter and second of the season. For catcher Rosey Neill, a solo homer in the fifth was her 19th on the season, tying the school record senior third baseman Michelle Smith set her freshman year.

For Massachusetts ace Brandice Balschimter, who came into the contest leading the nation in ERA, the loss saw her give up the most runs of her season -- and just her second homer.

For Stanford, it was simply one of those games.

Penna came into the contest with no earned runs to her name through 21 innings of work in the Amherst, Mass. Regional. So the Cardinal had to feel pretty good about their odds after just half an inning, as shortstop Maddy Coon's double, Neill's single to center and first baseman Erin Howe's two-out single up the middle each plated a run, putting the Card ahead 3-0.

"I think a big theme in our series with UMass was scoring first," Penna said in a postgame press conference. "In all three games, the team that scored first won. It was a relief that we scored first, so we could play our game without being so tight and tense."

A walk and a Penna error put on two Minutewomen in the first, and third baseman Whitney Mollica reached as far as third after walking in the fourth. But a Sarah Reeves groundout got Stanford out of the first, and catcher Jessica Serio's full-count looking strikeout in the fourth killed Massachusetts' last real hope.

With no Massachusetts players scratching out a hit, the Minutewomen went 1-2-3 the other five innings, as Penna mixed a drop, screwball and curveball to devastating effect. In a lose-and-go-home game, it was a dominant, clutch performance befitting Stanford softball's unquestionable MVP.

"As a coach, you do not want to jinx the no-hitter, but you are always thinking about it," Rittman said. "In the third and fifth innings, I glanced up, but I forgot about it until the last inning and thought, `Hopefully nobody jinxes this thing.' For her to have that type of a performance in a game of that magnitude is an outstanding achievement for her and our program."

Second baseman Shannon Koplitz's second-inning single to right center scored leadoff hitter Alicia Haber, the centerfielder.

After Neill's homer in the fifth, leftfielder Tricia Aggabao's one-out sac fly scored Haber for the game's final run.

"Coach was positive with us in between games," said Neill, as Stanford started the Regional Final just thirty minutes after Massachusetts' 2-1 win earlier Sunday afternoon. "He told us he knew we could win this game -- we just had to make a few hitting adjustments. The second game almost felt as if it started in the sixth inning of the first when we started hitting and getting on a roll. We were beginning to see pitches and hit them well. We definitely kept it going."

Neill, whose three hits were a game-high, and No. 12-seed (but No. 8-ranked) Stanford now visit No. 5-seed Texas A&M for the best-of-three Super Regionals. The Cardinal last advanced to the Super Regionals two years ago, losing at Alabama in two games.

Stanford last advanced out of a Super Regional and into the College World Series in 2004. Stanford has never won the CWS, with their only other appearance in the eight-team final coming in 2001.

Sunday:
No. 20 Massachusetts 2, No. 8 Stanford 1

Massachusetts (42-13) 200 000 0
Stanford (49-13) 000 000 1

WP: Balschmiter, Brandice (31-7), 7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 6 H, 6 K, 0 BB
LP: Penna (36-11), 7 IP, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 H, 5 K, 1 BB

With neither pitcher allowing an earned run, it was Penna's fielding mistakes in the first that ultimately cost Stanford a chance to close out the Minutewomen early Sunday afternoon, forcing the Regional Final.

The Minutewomen drew first blood soon after their first two batters, Whitney Williams and Lauren Proctor, reached base on a Penna throwing error and single, respectively. A Neill passed ball advanced the runners to second and third, so that Mollica's groundout to short scored Williams. Then, rightfielder Samantha Salato, the cleanup hitter, reached on another Penna error, scoring Proctor. But a Salato mistake would end the inning, as she was thrown out trying for third on catcher's Jessica Serio single two batters later.

Stanford was lucky to give up only two runs in an inning that saw Penna commit two errors and yield two hits, but Balschmiter and Massachusetts' defense made the margin stand up.

The Cardinal's best shot early came in the third inning, as consecutive two-out Haber and Koplitz singles set the stage for Coon.

Coon, however, struck out swinging on a 1-2 count.

Stanford went 1-2-3 in the first and fourth and managed only one base runner in each of the second, fifth and sixth innings, so the Card's chances looked bleak as Smith walked to the plate to start the bottom of the seventh. But two consecutive singles, this time from the seniors Smith and Howe, again created a scoring opportunity. Then, designated player Melisa Koutz reached on an error, loading the bases with none out for Tricia Aggabao.

Aggabao's sac fly to center scored Stanford's only run of the game, but Massachusets was able to hold Stanford's other two pinch runners at first and second. Therefore, on rightfielder Anna Beardman's grounder the next at-bat, the defense could force out the lead runner, freshman Autumn Albers.
With two out and runners on first and second, Haber took a first-pitch ball, but three Balschmitter consecutive strikes, the sophomore struck out looking to end the game.


Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!


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