In college softball’s most anticipated series of the season, the No. 1 Cal softball team demonstrated why both ESPN.com and USA Today rank the Bears as the best in the sport. Cal completed a three-game series sweep against No. 3 Washington Sunday at Levine-Fricke Field.
Friday’s tilt marked the first game of the series, pitting Cal ace Jolene Henderson against the equally lethal Kaitlin Inglesby. Inglesby, who entered the contest with 16 wins and no losses, completely shut down the Bears’ offense for the first six innings. Inglesby allowed one hit and scattered eight walks, effectively mitigating the potent Cal offense.
Henderson matched her frame for frame, save for a single unearned run allowed in the third inning.
The Bears came up in the bottom of the seventh needing a run to tie and two to win. Centerfielder Frani Echavarria and Jamia Reid reached on singles, and slugger Valerie Arioto was intentionally walked for the third time that game. Down one run with two outs, second baseman Jace Williams stepped up and laced a line-drive down the left-field line, plating Echavarria and Reid and ending the game at 2-1.
“I knew that Inglesby would have to give a good pitch to hit because the bases were loaded, so I knew I would at least see three good pitches,” Williams said in a post-game interview. “I was just trying to hit the ball hard.”
After Saturday’s game was cancelled on account of rain, the Huskies and Bears took to Levine-Fricke on Sunday for an old-fashioned doubleheader. Both coaches elected to start their secondary pitchers for the 10:00 a.m. start; for the Bears, Arioto took the mound, and on the Huskies’ side stood 9-0 Kasey Stanchek.
The scores stood static for the first two and a half frames, until Echavarria launched a Stanchek offering into the parking lot to put the Bears up 1-0. The home run appeared to unnerve Stanchek, as she subsequently walked Arioto, Breana Kostreba, and Cheyenne Cordes to force in a run.
The Bears tacked on three more runs in the fourth and fifth to bring the lead to 5-0. Arioto allowed four hits and three runs, all in the sixth and seventh innings, and struck out nine. Her record improved to 15-0 on the year.
In the afternoon-cap, Henderson was back on the mound, looking dominant while striking out the side in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, Arioto got her first pitch to hit all series and took advantage, slamming a two-run homer to right-center to give Cal an early 2-0 lead. The Bears tacked on two more in the bottom of the second on a Jamia Reid RBI single, giving the Bears a four run advantage that was never relinquished.
Washington tacked on two runs in the third and seventh innings, but by that point the game, and series, were out of reach.