Henderson propels Cal into Super Regionals

Cal's ace posts her second shutout of the Louisville Regional

Jan Flatley-Feldman/File
The Cal softball team needed just three runs to beat Louisville for a second time this past weekend.

Jolene Henderson has proven all year long that few things can slow her down. Cal’s sophomore pitcher has battled through tough opposing lineups, injuries and even a nasty case of the stomach flu en route to a 37-7 record.

On Sunday, she conquered the elements, too.

Less than a day after shutting out Louisville on Saturday, Henderson turned in another dominating performance against the Cardinals — despite a 30 minute delay between the sixth and seventh inning due to lightning — to lead her team to a 3-0 win at Ulmer Stadium in Louisville, Ky.

“(She) is really good,” Louisville shortstop Colby Wherry said of Henderson. “She was working really hard with her changeup more than yesterday. She knew what throw and she had a good game.”

On the heels of Henderson’s pitching, the No. 5 Cal softball team (42-10) becomes one of 16 teams to advance to the Super Regionals after winning the Louisville Regional.

Henderson threw all seven innings for the Bears, striking out 11 batters while only walking one. At the plate, center fielder Frani Echavarria led the way, tallying two of Cal’s three runs. The Bears got things started in the top of the second, when Echavarria came home on a throwing error to first base by Louisville third baseman Chelsea Bemis.

“We pretty much won this game today because our speed got on today and forced errors defensively on them,” head coach Diane Ninemire said.

Echavarria made it around the bases again two innings later. The Riverside, Calif., product reached first on a line drive to right field, and eventually sprinted home for Cal’s second run when pitcher Tori Collins sent a fastball past catcher Maggie Ruckenbrod.

“I thought our team did a good job picking up her (Collins) pitches and hitting our pitches,” Echavarria said. “She got us a couple of times, but I think we finally settled down and looked for our pitches. I think we got some good key hits when we needed them.”

The Bears would push their lead to 3-0 in the fifth inning, when Reid scored from second on a Jace Williams single. Three runs proved to be more than enough to secure the win.

Henderson faced her only trouble in the top of the sixth inning, when she started off by allowing a double and a single to put runners on the corners with no outs. The sophomore righthander then quickly regained her form, forcing Ruckenbrod into a groundout before striking out Hannah Kiyohara and Taner Fowler to end the inning and keep the shutout in tact.

“I like to make things interesting,” Henderson said. “I don’t really get too concerned. Our offense was on today and got runs early. I still felt in control even when there were runners on base.”

Next weekend, Cal will continue its postseason run in Lexington, Ky., when it faces Kentucky for a best-of-three series.

Connor Byrne covers softball.