By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Jenna Rich tries to maintain the same mindset whether there are runners on base or not. She has been able to do just that the past two days and has helped Stanford land a spot in Sunday's championship game of the Stanford Regional in the NCAA tournament.
Rich had two hits and drove in the Cardinal first run of an eventual 3-1 victory over Fresno State on Saturday.
Stanford (40-15) will await the outcome of Saturday's late game, which will determine its opponent for Sunday's 1:30 p.m. contest in the double-elimination tournament. The Cardinal has to be defeated twice.
The Stanford regional winner will meet the winner of the Tuscaloosa Regional in next weekend's Super Regional, most likely in Alabama.
Rich, a sophomore second baseman for the 12th-ranked Cardinal, is responsible for three of Stanford's six runs in the first two days. It's been plenty for sophomore pitcher Teagan Gerhart, who threw her second straight three-hitter in earning the victory.
"I love playing behind Teagan," Rich said. "We have a lot of confidence in her. Even with she gets into trouble we know she'll come through. She has our back and she knows we have hers."
Gerhart (24-11) has allowed one run through two games and has managed to throw an economical 169 pitches combined. She's likely available to start Sunday.
Fresno State's Michelle Moses, who took the loss, needed 181 pitches to get through Friday night's 10-inning, 1-0, victory over Nebraska. She threw an added 62 pitches against Stanford.
"This is the postseason," Bulldogs' long-time coach Margie Wright said. "You plan everything for this time of the year. We need a quick gut check and to come back out and play ball."
It's hard to plan for an offense that includes Rich, Stanford's leading home run hitter and run producer, and Ashley Hansen, who leads the nation in batting average. It was that combination that gave Stanford the lead.
Gerhart walked to lead off the third inning, stole second and went to third on Hansen's single. Rich followed with a sharp single to score Gerhart. Freshman Caitlyn Pura followed with another RBI single to make it 2-0.
"My mindset was being patient," Rich said. "I didn't want to be overly aggressive. She threw it inside and I wanted to stay tight with my hands."
Senior Melisa Koutz also singled home a run for Stanford, which collected seven hits.
"Teagan pitched extremely well and kept the pressure off the offense," Cardinal coach John Rittman said. "We got some timely hits but we didn't blow it open like we would have liked. All these teams are pretty well matched."
Tyler Gaffney extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a bunt single in the eighth inning but Stanford dropped a 7-3 decision to visiting Arizona in a Pac-10 Conference contest Saturday.
The Cardinal (11-12, 29-19) finish the series with Arizona at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Brian Ragira and Zach Jones each had two hits for Stanford, which has won nine of its last 13 games.
The Wildcats were held scoreless through the first 15 innings of the series, scored two runs in each the fifth, sixth and seventh inning to win their ninth in 11 games.
David Chung finished 11th at the NCAA Central Regional and Stanford finished sixth on the Wolf Run Golf Course in Zionsville, Ind. on Saturday.
Stanford finished 23rd at the NCAA championship in Bryan, Texas.
Rebecca Durham shot Stanford's best round of the day at 3-over 75 on The Traditions Golf Course.