It was not quite the feast that the Bears expected.
In this weekend’s Cathedral City Classic, the Cal softball team saw unranked programs threaten their undefeated streak and No. 1 ranking but clawed their way through these opponents to emerge satisfied.
The Bears rose to 12-0 on Sunday after completing yet another tournament sweep. They allowed only one run over the four-game event in Palm Springs, Calif. Following a 5-0 win over Fordham to start the tournament, Cal continued to dominate with a 2-0 win over New Mexico State, a 4-1 win over Cal Poly and a 7-0 win over Cal State Northridge at the Big League Dreams Sports Park.
Still, the Bears’ score differentials were smaller than what they have grown accustomed to. After averaging eight-plus runs per game over its first two tournaments, Cal averaged 4.5 this weekend. Power hitters such as Valerie Arioto and freshman Danielle Henderson were limited to one homer apiece.
“We weren’t on our ‘A’ game this weekend, but we still managed to work through,” Henderson said. “They were not high scoring games, but we will take the wins and look to them to help us fine tune the little things we need to improve on.”
While the Bears did not anticipate any losses against their unranked opponents, most of whom carry lackluster records, they did face a few unexpected challenges. Cal handled Fordham fairly easily in its tournament opener with a 5-0 victory. Valerie Arioto pitched a complete-game two hitter, which was supplemented by a two-run homer by Henderson in the top of the fourth and solo shot over the fence from freshman Breana Kostreba in the top of the seventh.
New Mexico State posed a greater challenge to the Bears. The Aggies entered the tournament with the best record of Cal’s opponents at 10-2, and held them to their lowest score yet this season. The freshman class was again central to the offense Friday, with Cheyenne Cordes and Kostreba driving in the Bears’ only runs. Pitcher Jolene Henderson, Danielle’s older sister, ruled the mound, allowing only three hits and striking out 11 Aggies.
“Our defense was really strong this weekend, and the pitchers were throwing amazingly,” the third baseman said.
Cal lost the lead for the first time in the tournament in game three against Cal Poly on Saturday, falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first. That lead did not last long, however, and Arioto set things right with a two-run homer in the top of the first. Kostreba notched another RBI, as did sophomore Britt Vonk, bringing the game to its final score of 4-1.
The tournament’s conclusion on Sunday pitted the Bears against 1-12 CSUN. The Matadors held the worst record of Cal’s opponents but were able to hold the Bears scoreless longer than any other team. The game stood tied at zero until Vonk singled to left, driving home sophomore Ashley Decker. Following the sluggish start, the Bears lit up the sixth inning with six more runs.