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6 takeaways from the past weekend of Pac-12 softball (April 8-10)

Apr 12, 2022
Photo of Alana Vawter via Stanford Athletics

Another weekend of Pac-12 softball is in the books. Here are six things we learned.

Stanford can go toe-to-toe with anyone because of its pitching and defense

The Cardinal only scored three runs in three games against No. 3 UCLA, yet that was enough to secure its first series win over the Bruins since 2013.

Stanford managed to squeak out a pair of 1-0 victories thanks to masterful outings by Alana Vawter and Regan Krause, who outpitched a Bruin staff that boasts the second-best ERA in the country.

The Cardinal (26-10, 5-4 Pac-12) not only snapped the Bruins' 25-game winning streak, it became the first team all season to shut them out — and did so in back-to-back games.

Krause tossed 5.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the second game of the series and Vawter twirled a four-hit shutout in the series finale.

Vawter allowed just two runs in 15 innings on the weekend, earning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week and and multiple National Pitcher of the Week honors.

She was quick to credit the dazzling defense behind her. Stanford has only committed five errors in nine Pac-12 games and routinely makes game-changing plays.

The nation finally seems to be taking notice as the Cardinal cracked the Top 25 in every major poll this week.

Arizona State is now in the driver's seat for the Pac-12 title

The Cardinal beating the Bruins opened a window of opportunity for the Sun Devils and they capitalized, sweeping then-No. 14 Oregon in Eugene to remain unbeaten in Pac-12 play and take a two-game lead in the loss column on UCLA atop the conference standings. (The two teams face each other in Tempe on May 6-8!)

ASU picked up right where it left off after its bye, belting the ball all over Jane Sanders Stadium. The Sun Devils plated at least eight runs in all three games and homered eight times in the series, jumping to No. 2 nationally in slugging percentage (.650).

Outfielder Jazmine Hill was named Pac-12 Player of the Week after launching three long balls against the Ducks, highlighted by a grand slam that keyed an 8-6 comeback victory in the series finale.

During their 9-0 start to Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils are averaging 8.6 runs per game.

They take their 17-game winning streak to Utah this weekend.

UCLA got healthier

The Bruins dropped the Stanford series, but welcomed back Kinsley Washington, who had been out since March 20 with an injury. Hitting .395 with five homers this season, Washington slapped an RBI single in the 3-1 win in Friday's series opener, immediately showing how important she is to the offense. 

That is especially true after it was announced that Aaliyah Jordan, one of UCLA's most consistent hitters, will miss the rest of the season as she recovers from injury. The good news is she will return next season for a seventh — yes, seventh! — year in Westwood.

Yeah, this Oregon State team is different

The Beavers finally snapped their Arizona losing streak, taking two of three from the Wildcats in Corvallis. It marked the first time Oregon State beat Arizona since 2016, as well as the first time OSU won a series against the Wildcats since 2013.

The top of Oregon State's lineup came through. Kiki Escobar, Frankie Hammoude and Eliana Gottlieb combined for 11 hits and six RBI. Escobar claimed her second straight Pac-12 Freshman of the Week award after tallying five hits and her first career homer.

Mariah Mazon and Sarah Haendiges showed why they are one of the best pitching duos in the country, each allowing one run in a complete-game effort in OSU's two wins.

Ranked as high as 19th in some national polls, the Beavers (31-9, 7-5 Pac-12) still have four more Pac-12 series to play, yet have already posted their highest win total in nine years.

They sit in third place as they head to Seattle for a big series at Washington, where they have not won since 2017.

Sharlize Palacios stayed hot in frigid Corvallis

The Wildcats exploded in game three, run-ruling Oregon State 9-1 to end the weekend on a high note. Despite the series loss, it was a productive road trip for Palacios, who is heating up in the latter half of the season.

She racked up five hits and two homers in Corvallis, giving her nine hits over her last six games to raise her batting average from .197 to .258.

She's also hit three homers in her last four games, giving her nine for the season, halfway to her total in 2021 when she was a First-Team All-Pac-12 performer.

Utah is proving skeptics wrong 

The Utes blew a five-run lead to drop the series opener against Cal last Friday. Instead of hanging their heads, they fought back to win the final two games of the series to claim their first Pac-12 series win since 2019.

Despite being picked to finish last in the Pac-12 by the conference's coaches, Utah now sits in fifth place with a respectable 4-5 conference record.

Sydney Sandez continued her standout season, allowing just one earned run in 16.2 innings. She has a sparkling 1.66 ERA in Pac-12 play, the eight-best in the conference.

The speedy Haley Denning keeps mashing, racking up seven more hits to raise her batting average to .379.

Julia Jimenez had five hits, including a homer and four RBI.

Ellessa Bonstrom extended her hitting streak to eight games.