Stanford Takes Down UMass To Earn Spot In Regional Championship
May 17, 2008
Amherst, Mass. - The Cardinal softball team knew it needed to bring its best to snap the nation's longest winning streak and score on the pitcher with the nation's best ERA. The Cardinal stepped up to the challenge right away, scoring three runs in the first two innings and allowing No. 20/22 Massachusetts just three baserunners in a 3-0 shutout at the UMass Softball Complex in Amherst, Mass.
Stanford improves to 48-12 with the win and will play the team that emerges from this afternoon's two elimination games tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. for the regional title. The Minutewomen fall to 40-12 and will meet the Lehigh-Princeton winner for the right to play the Cardinal tomorrow.
Stanford's brought its offense early, but its opening strike proved to be decisive. Stanford recorded five of its seven hits in the first two innings, and outhit UMass, 7-2. Senior Anna Beardman went 3-for-3 with her third double of the year, while sophomore Shannon Koplitz came up with two hits that were both instrumental in the Cardinal scoring.
With a lead from her very first pitch, junior pitcher Missy Penna never let the Minutewomen in the game. She threw a two-hitter, allowed just three baserunners and fanned 11 of the 24 batters she faced. The junior earned her school-record 36th win of the year, and is now just three strikeouts away from becoming the eighth pitcher in Pac-10 history to record 400 K's in a single season.
UMass pitcher Brandice Balschmiter lost for the first time in 25 games and drops to 29-7. Her 24-game win streak was the 11th-longest in NCAA history. Stanford also snapped the team's 30-game win streak, the longest current streak in the nation.
Stanford was aggressive from the get-go. Sophomore Alissa Haber drew a four-pitch walk to start the game and Koplitz followed with her first of two clutch hits, sending Haber around to third with a single through the right side. With Maddy Coon at bat, Balschmiter threw a wild pitch that scored Haber and pout Koplitz in scoring position. Coon laid down a sacrifice to move Koplitz to third, and Rosey Neill pounded a single to left field to give Stanford a two-run cushion. With the RBI, Neill became just the sixth player in school history to record 50 in a single season.
Fueled by their early success, the Cardinal hitters brought more offense in the second inning. Beardman chopped an infield single by Balschmiter to start things off, and stole second base on Haber's at bat. With Beardman in scoring position, Koplitz pounded another crucial hit to center field that drove in Beardman.
From there, it was up to Penna to close out the win, as Beardman's two hits were all the Cardinal could muster in the final five innings. Penna stepped up under the pressure, however, allowing the Minutewomen just one runner in scoring position.
The team that emerges from today's elimination games will meet the Cardinal tomorrow at 1 p.m. (ET). The teams will play a second game if necessary at 3:30 p.m. The Cardinal needs to just one of the two to claim its fifth regional title and advance to next weekend's NCAA Super Regional.