In the Cal softball team’s last game before the commencement of Pac-12 play, it was the Valerie Arioto Show.
Arioto hit a two-run homer in the first inning and pitched five scoreless innings, leading the Bears to a 8-0 victory in five innings over Princeton on Tuesday at Levine-Fricke Field.
“I was satisfied with the team’s performance today,” said coach Diane Ninemire. “We played really well defensively and we’re certainly on track for the big series with Stanford this weekend.”
Freshmen Cheyenne Cordes and Danielle Henderson also hit home runs to lead the offensive attack.
Arioto started the game with six consecutive strikeouts, using her changeup as an effective out pitch to fool the overmatched Princeton hitters
“(Using off-speed stuff) is pretty much always my game plan,” Arioto said. “(Catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt) does a great job of mixing it up and keeping them off balance.”
After Jamia Reid led off the bottom of the first with an infield single, Arioto stepped up to the plate with one out and calmly hit a high fastball into the right field parking lot.
In the bottom of the secnd, Henderson saw a 1-2 inside fastball and lined it over the fence in left, putting the Bears up 3-0. After another Jamia Reid infield single and steal of second, Britt Vonk smacked a single into the hole in center to extend the lead to four.
After the first two innings, the Cal bats fell silent. The Bears failed to get a hit in the third or fourth innings.
Arioto continued to mow down the Tiger bats, who were clearly outmatched by the All-American. Arioto continued to make quick work of Princeton, forcing them to weakly ground out or making them look foolish with her devastating changeup. Only one Tiger advanced past first base all day.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Cal offense woke up. Reid led off the inning with a bunt, but was thrown out at first. Sophomore Ashley Decker pinch-hit for Britt Vonk and was plunked by Princeton pitcher Liza Kuhn. Kuhn threw a wild pitch, allowing Decker to steal second. Arioto hit a single to center and stole second, putting two runners in scoring position for Jace Williams. Williams smacked a single to right, driving in Decker and moving Arioto up to third. Breana Kostreba hit a sac-fly, driving in Arioto and putting the Bears up 6-0.
With two outs and a runner on second, Cordes came up and worked a full count on Kuhn. On the 3-2 payoff pitch, Cordes smacked a line-drive homer to left-center, ending the game on account of the mercy rule.
Cal begins the Pac-12 slate on Friday with a three-game series against Stanford, and Ninemire is fully aware of the upcoming challenge.
“This is a big series, and we’re going to come up and play our best,” Ninemire said. “That’s what playing in the Pac-12 is all about.”