Valerie Arioto will not slow down.
In a matchup destined for an ordinary blowout, Arioto emerged extraordinary, taking a no-hitter into the final inning and picking up a couple of key hits to propel the Bears to a 10-2 victory over Santa Clara in five innings at Levine-Fricke Field Wednesday.
“Val threw a great game,” coach Diane Ninemire said. “She kept them off-balance all day and put us in a great position to win.”
Santa Clara’s offense was silent all afternoon. The Broncos’ only contact in the first four innings came from a sacrifice bunt and a comebacker to the pitcher’s mound. Arioto finished with 13 strikeouts, striking out the side three times. Although Arioto conceded two runs on three hits and a walk in the fifth inning, the afternoon was clearly dominated by her pitching.
The Bears shelled Broncos’ starter Jessica Turner for nine runs and eight hits, chasing her from the game before she could even complete the second inning.
The offensive standout was Danielle Henderson. In the first inning, Henderson took a 2-2 offering and blasted it over the left-field fence, driving in Arioto and Jace Williams to give Cal a 4-0 advantage.
“I was just trying to make contact because I had two strikes on me,” Henderson said. “They were throwing me a lot of inside stuff so when she threw another inside pitch. I was sitting on it.”
Henderson, who also added a couple of runs, has increasingly become a key cog in the Bears’ offense. The freshman third baseman has hit 13 home runs on the year, good for second on the squad. Although often hitting seventh, Henderson adds some pop to the bottom of the lineup, demonstrating the depth of the potent Cal offense.
The offensive onslaught continued into the second inning. Six of the first seven Bears reached base, scoring three on a bases-loaded walk, an RBI single by freshman shortstop Cheyenne Cordes, and a defensive error by Santa Clara to extend the lead to seven. Frani Echavarria came up next and singled through the middle, driving in two to put Cal up 9-0.
“We made a statement today,” Ninemire said. “We jumped on them right away.”
Even light-hitting catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt got in on the offensive action today. Ziegenhirt, who is hitting only .143 on the year, hit her first home run to left-center in the 3rd inning off of reliever Carissa Theis. Ziegenhirt’s homer brought the Cal lead to 10-0.
Jamia Reid went 2-for-3 with two more steals, giving her 36 steals on the year. That figure makes her second in all of college softball. Cordes went 1-for-3 with a run and an RBI.
The Bears travel to Oregon on Friday to take on the No. 8 Ducks, where the competitive intensity will be significantly stronger than today’s matchup.
“They’ve got a good pitching staff and some quality hitters,” Ninemire said. “I’m fully prepared for a challenging weekend.”
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