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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Stanford softball in trouble as seniors quit team

Dealing with adversity is commonplace in sports. For the Stanford softball team, dealing with adversity has been the name of the game this season.

On Tuesday, the San Jose Mercury News reported three Stanford softball players quit the team. Seniors Hanna Winter, Cassandra Roulund and Leah White all ended their seasons, and careers, 10 games premature.

“The players left for personal reasons,” Stanford’s softball coach Rachel Hanson said to Mercury News. “Things happen in a season. We wish them the best. We’re still just looking forward.”

Of the trio, Winter provided the most for the Cardinal. The third baseman from Camarillo, Calif., was among team leaders in games started, batting average, runs, on base percentage and stolen bases. She even started 217 consecutive games before sitting against Oregon on Sunday.

Not to mention, she was first team All-Pac-12 as a freshman, second team All-Pac-12 as a sophomore, All-Pac-12 honorable mention and Pac-12 All-Academic first team as a junior.

Roulund had started 42 games this season before also being benched over the weekend, while White had started 33 games this season and 204 in her career.

With their departures, Stanford saw half of its senior class leave.

This puts an even greater damper on a lackluster season for the Cardinal, which enters this weekend’s series against Arizona with a 16-29 overall record and a horrible 1-14 record in Pac-12 Conference play.

The Pac-12 and its powerhouse programs aren’t kind to inconsistency, and Stanford has certainly seen how true that is.

The Cardinal is near, or at, the bottom in almost every major offensive category, but it’s the pitching staff that has been this team’s Achilles’ heel.

Stanford’s team ERA of 6.42 is the worst in the conference and nearly two runs worse than the next closest team.

That doesn’t even include other pitching stats such as opposing batting average and strikeouts, which also rank far below the rest of the conference.

However, what’s more troubling than anything is how these seniors had just 10 games left in their season and chose to walk away rather than continue to play for Hanson.

And these aren’t walk-on seniors who rarely see the field. These are decorated players who were counted upon on a daily basis to contribute. The fact they walked away is a horrible sign for both Hanson and the Stanford program.

Hanson has seen more downs than ups in her first season at Stanford after she took over for longtime Stanford coach John Rittman.

Hanson was highly praised by former players and the media at the time of her hire. Stanford great, Jessica Mendoza, who now works as an analyst and reporter for ESPN, gave several kind words on Hanson.

“She’s able to bring out the best of the players and represent the university in the best way possible,” Mendoza said in a Stanford press release. “The great thing about Stanford is that it’s ‘student’ before ‘athlete,’ and Rachel gets that.”

Hanson has failed to do that so far, as the program is slowly crumbling around her.

The Cardinal comes to Tucson this weekend for a series with a top-20 Arizona team.

Things will get tougher before they get easier. But as a quote in “The Dark Knight” says, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”

This weekend could be the darkest portion of the season for Stanford — but perhaps the final straw before the Cardinal starts to turn things around.

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Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter.

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