No. 18 Cal softball jumps on Pacific early, picks up 10th straight win in home opener

PC: Daniel Ho
Daniel Ho/Staff

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A deep shot to the 220 sign in center sailed over the head of Tigers’ center fielder Hailey Reed. As Cal’s leadoff hitter Lindsay Rood raced around first base, the ball caromed back toward Reed, who turned back toward the infield as Rood hit the bag at second. Without breaking stride, Rood sped to third, making it in standing as her ecstatic teammates cheered from the nearby dugout.

“We came off a tough weekend against some good opponents and kept the intensity up early on,” Rood said. “I think that winning off the weekend really helped us come out here and continue to play well and keep up the intensity.”

The first of 13 hitters to face University of the Pacific starter Kenya Lindstrom in the home half of the first inning, Rood reminded fans at Levine-Fricke Field just how hot the No. 18 Cal softball team currently is. Sparked by Rood’s combination of speed and power, the Bears put up nine runs in just less than 20 minutes of play, taking advantage of Lindstrom’s wildness in and out of the strike zone on their way to a 13-5 victory in their home opener.

The win not only improved the Bears’ record to 13-1, but provided Cal with confidence heading into this weekend’s Judi Garman Classic.

“It’s really nice to be at home, but we’re going to be back on the road against four great opponents this weekend,” said head coach Diane Ninemire. “We hope that we can take this week’s momentum into the weekend.”

Last season, the Cal softball team hosted Pacific for its last nonconference game of the season. It took until the third inning for the Bears to get on the scoreboard, but they ultimately run-ruled the Tigers by a score of 9-1 heading into conference play. Needless to say, the offense was off and rolling right away this time around.

After Rood’s triple, Kylie Reed sent a fastball past Lindstrom and into center field, knocking in the Bears’ first run in Berkeley on the year. Taking advantage of miscues on the infield and free passes from Lindstrom, Cal’s offensive outburst gave the pitching staff an early nine-run cushion.

With the plan in mind of saving star pitcher Zoe Conley for this weekend’s Judi Garman Classic, Ninemire deployed four of her bullpen arms — Katie Sutherland-Finch, Bradie Fillmore, Kristin Cullen and Stephanie Trzcinski — in relief of starter Kourtney Shaw, who left with a 9-1 lead after two innings of play. It looked like the Bears, who have already run-ruled teams earlier this year with double-digit wins, would cruise to another shortened victory.

But the Tigers — trailing 10-1 heading into the fifth — refused to let the Bears just walk away with the win. With junior Megan Walters shutting the Cal offense down in the third and fourth innings, Pacific came out and tagged Cullen for four runs to start the fifth, forcing Ninemire to replace her with Trzcinski, the Bears’ top reliever.

Down 10-5, Walters entered her fourth inning of work in the bottom of the fifth and thought she was out of the inning when she got senior Khala Taylor to hit a choppy grounder to second. But Taylor was ruled safe on a close play at first, allowing Rood and Reed to extend the lead to 12-5. Pacific head coach Brian Kolze was given the thumb by umpire Ed Cooper arguing the call, and moments later, senior Annie Aldrete knocked in Taylor, putting the run-rule into effect and securing Cal’s tenth straight win.

The Bears will put their win streak to test against four formidable opponents this weekend, none more daunting than No. 1 Florida on Friday afternoon. It will take more than just a good start for Cal to knock off the Gators, but given the way that it has been playing, expect a good fight.

Josh Yuen covers softball. Contact him at [email protected].