Bears bulldoze Utes in first of three tilts

Center fielder Frani Echavarria was perfect on her three at-bats, finishing the game with two doubles and a home run.
Mary Zheng/File
Center fielder Frani Echavarria was perfect on her three at-bats, finishing the game with two doubles and a home run.

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On Thursday, the Cal softball team held the Utes mute.

The Bears dominated the series opener against Utah with a 10-0 win in five innings at the Ute Softball Field in Salt Lake City, Utah. Senior outfielder Frani Echavarria notched two doubles and a home run to fuel the Bears (34-1) with five RBIs.

No. 1 Cal started its third conference series in powerful fashion. While Echavarria led the Bears offensively, pitcher Jolene Henderson served as the foundation of the defense. She allowed only two hits on her way to the shutout.

“Whenever we come out we always want to get a win under our belt early,” Echavarria said. “Jolene had another great game today, and we got a great win for her. We just look to continue in the next couple of days.”

Echavarria is quick to give credit to her teammates, but she was the one who propelled the Bears to their 34th win of the season. Coming into the game Echavarria had three home runs and 12 RBIs for the season. On Thursday, she strengthened her personal stats with a homer and five RBIs. However, personal accolades seem to matter less to her than the impact she had for her team.

“I can’t remember the last time I had two doubles and a home run in a single game,” Echavarria said. “I’m really proud of myself. I’m definitely going to keep working hard and hopefully do it again for my team.”

With the first game of the series over, the Bears must continue to look to the final two games in the series. After sweeping their first two conference series against ranked Stanford and Washington, unranked Utah (23-10) serves as a bit of a break in Cal’s schedule.

Utah’s defense was helpless against the Bear’s onslaught, and the offense was unable to make up the difference. The Utes earned only two hits, and the game ended with a mercy ruling. Though they are careful not to underestimate the Utes, the Bears anticipate gathering two more wins before the weekend is out.

“They are a great program but we are too, so these next games are going to be great,” Echavarria said. “It’s pretty hard to hit off Jolene. She’s tough and intimidating and we had no errors today.”

The Bears are looking to not only finish out the series strong but also have their sights set on the postseason. With four Pac-12 teams in the nation’s top 10 and seven in the top 25, Cal will continue to face the best teams in the country as the team continues through conference play. While the Bears have prevailed so far and reasserted themselves as the best in the nation, future competition will undoubtedly continue to challenge them.

“Every weekend we could be playing ranked teams three games in a row,” Echavarria said. “They will put their best nine out there and we will too. I feel like playing such tough competition will prepare us well for the post season.”

For now though, the team is satisfied with how the season is progressing.

“Coach (Diane Ninemire) is proud and excited,” Echevarria said. “She gets very excited and motivated. She knows that we are doing the right thing and she is too and we are getting the job done.

“She is definitely a happy camper right now.”

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