After winning just once in their first three contests, the Santa Clara Bruins have won four-straight games, improving their league record to 5-2. Over their past four games—which includes two non-league games—the Bruins have not allowed their opponents to score a single run.
Sure enough starting pitcher Kathryn Caravalho has been lights out on the mound and the defense behind her has been stellar when called upon. However, it is the offense that has made the biggest turnaround from the start of the season. Aside from a 15-0 season-opening win, the offense mustered just seven combined runs over the next four games. Santa Clara went just 1-3 in those games. As the season has gone on, a young lineup of hitters has settled into a nice groove at the dish.
During this four-game shutout streak, Santa Clara has outscored their opponents 36-0. Three of those wins saw the Bruins reach double digits, and in the other they still managed to score a respectable three runs.
“They are all contributing now and the main reason for it is because they are confident,” noted Bruins Head Coach John Rahbar on the new-found depth to his lineup. “The confidence they have in the box is what really shines. Nicole Saulus comes in off the bench and gets a single and a double and a couple RBI. Rocky [Racquel Blassingame], between her various positions on the field, has gotten lots of at bats. These girls are getting confident as they get more and more ABs. What they are doing right now is a lot more consistent and it’s beautiful. They are coming together really well right now.”
Earlier in the season it seemed as if the Bruins offense needed to come from the first four or five hitters. As the season has gone on, Santa Clara has seen big time offense produced from players lower in the lineup. A few games back it was Sierra Trujeque with a big double and a sacrifice fly out of the eight spot. Against Homestead on Monday, April 23, it was Blassingame with a leadoff double and two-RBI single.
Blassingame would come around to score the first run after her double. Her two-RBI single basically put the game away, increasing the lead from 6-0 to 8-0 in the fourth. Also, you cannot forget about No. 9 hitter Abigail Klahold who smoked a hard shot that bounced off the pitcher before caroming slowly to the shortstop. That solid contact knocked Blassingame home.
“We’ve been gelling a lot more lately,” remarked senior second baseman Vanessa Bontrager. “We lost seven seniors last year so we have had to start a bit new. I think we are really coming together and gelling a bit more now. That’s been leading us to our success. At first I think people were nervous and we weren’t communicating well, but now we are backing each other up and playing for each other.”
Through three-and-two-thirds innings on Monday, Caravalho had yet to allow a single base runner. At that point the 12th hitter of the game knocked a soft liner just over the outstretched arm of shortstop Nevaeh Tayama. For the game, Caravalho scattered two hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts over six innings in the 10-run-rule victory.
For the season, Caravalho has now whittled her ERA down to a miniscule 0.83 in 101 innings of work. Securing her 500th career strikeout on Monday as part of her 10-strikeout performance, she now has 159 on the season, making for a 14.1 strikeout rate per nine innings. Or, since softball usually goes seven innings, a 11.0 strikeout rate per seven innings.
The Bruins will next take on second-place Mountain View (5-1) on Wednesday, April 25. The Bruins fell to the Spartans back on Mar. 21, 6-3.