On Saturday night, first-year Stanford softball coach Rachel Hanson will help honor three seniors who have experienced the best of days and the worst of days over the past four years.
Erin Ashby, Tylyn Wells and Alyssa Lombardo will share a special spotlight on Senior Day. A ceremony will be held following Stanford's 5:30 p.m. game with visiting Arizona State.
"We'll focus on the three who are here and who finished out their careers," Hanson said. "All three have worked hard and I respect them. They certainly can't enjoy the struggles of the last two years but, for the rest of their lives, they can reference this and how they dealt with adversity."
The losses have been piling up ever since Stanford's softball team lost its two starting pitchers to injury and had to turn to position players such as Wells and Kylie Sorenson.
They were pressed into service last year, also because of injuries and transfers. They were going to be used to supplement sophomore Madi Schreyer and freshman Haley Snyder this year.
Schreyer and Snyder will return next year. Sorenson likely will be happy to relinquish her duties as staff ace.
"Both of them are aching to be back on the field," Hanson said. "I know they're frustrated but they are putting in the work and rehabbing."
For Ashby, who already has graduated with a major in communications, it got to the point where she volunteered to pitch, along with Cardinal slugger Kayla Bonstrom and Kaitlyn Lagattuta.
"It's a team sport and you want to put your team in the best situation," Ashby said. "We needed to step up and divide the weight of the team on everybody's shoulders."
Ashby was recruited to Stanford as a third baseman, but has not seen a lot of action there. She's been used primarily as a first baseman and catcher, with appearances as a designated player and at second base.
Ashby pitched her final two years at Crescenta Valley High, also out of necessity. She's the consummate team player.
"When I think about softball, the goal is always winning a national championship," Ashby said. "Realistically, that's not in the future. This year has been all about adversity and making it through tough situations."
The seniors tasted the postseason their first two years at Stanford. Things were looking bright last year, as well, despite one of the top pitchers in college transferring out.
Injuries to the pitching staff put Schreyer in a tough spot. A high school All-American and Washington's Gatorade Player of the Year, Schreyer threw over 242 innings and earned All-Pac-12 honors after starting 39 games and making 47 appearances overall.
Another top-notch pitcher transferred out of Stanford before Hanson was hired, leaving Schreyer and Snyder, both of whom were hurt.
"It's been a difficult season," said Hanson, who saw three seniors leave the team recently for 'personal' reasons. "We got hurt at the position that matters most. We focus on things we can control and improve in areas where we can. It's about how we recover, how we bounce back. I'm still excited about the future."
While some numbers, like Stanford's 16-32 overall record, or its 1-17 Pac-12 mark, tell one story, there are other numbers that tell a different story.
Stanford has been strong offensively, hitting .280 as a team with 353 hits, 259 runs, 60 doubles, 34 home runs, 11 triples, a .426 slugging percentage and .386 on-base percentage.
Stanford hosted No. 2 Oregon for a three-game series earlier in April and played the Ducks as tough as any conference team.
Oregon outscored Stanford, 23-15, over the three games, a run differential of eight -- the second-fewest against them in the Pac-12. The Ducks entered the series outscoring opponents in three-game series by an average of 16.2 runs.
The 15 runs Stanford scored is the second-most of any Pac-12 team against the Ducks this season. Only Washington scored more against Oregon, registering 16 during its three-game set.
The Cardinal has played 33 games against opponents ranked among the top 54 in RPI. Stanford's RPI rating is No. 82, out of 295 Division I schools. The Cardinal own victories over No. 6 Alabama, No. 27 Utah, No. 28 Texas and No. 54 Long Beach State.
Bonstrom is enjoying another monster year for Stanford. She's hitting .432 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI. She has a slugging percentage of .784 and an on-base percentage of .543.
She's a former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, a two-time All-Pac-12 pick and is enjoying an even better year offensively this time around.
"What she does is not lost within our program," Hanson said. "You see her work ethic, how she competes day in and day out. She's an incredible athlete. She fires up people."
Hanson has been successful wherever she has coached. She built programs on the Division III level and turned Dartmouth into a winning program that made it to the NCAA tournament.
There's every reason to believe she'll do the same at Stanford. She just needs to solve the pitching problem.