Strong pitching on both sides headlines weekend tourney

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A call to arms has been issued, and Cal’s pitchers will have to heed it.

Cal aces Valerie Arioto and Jolene Henderson will be put to the test as they face other star hurlers at the Bayer CropScience Classic in Fresno, Calif. this Saturday and Sunday. Three of their four opponents feature Pitcher of the Week honorees from their respective conferences.

To open the tournament, the No. 1 Cal softball team (17-0) will face off against a San Diego State squad led by Mountain West Pitcher of the Week Rebecca Arbino. Arbino boasts a 1.34 ERA and is coming off a strong week in which she threw two shutouts and struck out 21 batters over a stretch of six games.

“The toughest part of our preseason is coming up, especially these games against SDSU (13-11) and the other teams in Fresno,” said junior Jace Williams. “These next two weeks really are going to test us and, against any of these teams, if we don’t play our best softball we might lose.”

In the second of Saturday’s games, the Bears’ sluggers will test the Horizon League’s Pitcher of the Week, Breanna Fisher of Butler. The senior has not allowed an earned run in 14.2 innings from the circle this season.

She will have to contend with Cal’s powerful offense, which has been growing more potent as the season progresses. On Wednesday, Cal’s underclassmen cemented their position amongst the ranks of the heavy-hitting squad. Freshman Breana Kostreba started the game with a bang as she slammed a line drive over the fence for a grand slam in the bottom of the first. Following her lead, fellow freshman Danielle Henderson sent one out of the park, and sophomore Victoria Jones cleared left field to tally the Bears’ third homer against UC Davis.

Fresno State’s pitcher will take on the daunting Bears’ bats to close out the tournament on Sunday. Senior Michelle Moses was also honored by her conference for the fourth time as the Western Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Week. She notched her second no-hitter in February and boasts a 1.30 ERA. While Moses has led the team recently, Fresno State features a deep  pitching cycle. In fact, a Bulldog pitcher has posted a no-hitter in each of the last three weekends.

While they hope to test themselves against these skilled aces, the Bears look forward to facing the Bulldogs (12-7) for another reason as well. Fresno State may have the home-field advantage, but a longstanding rivalry is also fueling the Bears. Though non-traditional, it is deeply rooted in the  histories of these two softball programs.

“We have an interesting rivalry with Fresno State,” Williams said. “It is an older rivalry for Cal softball going back 10 or more years ago. We have lost many, many Regionals to them. The fans are very into it, too. They have loud fans and a great stadium.”