One down, four to go.
In the first game of the treacherous Hawaii Spring Fling tournament in Honolulu, the No. 1 Cal softball team took down the No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies, 3-0, on Wednesday behind a one-hitter from starting pitcher Jolene Henderson and an offensively strong fifth inning.
“We flew in and loosened up and came out ready to play today,” Henderson said. “We have the mentality we will beat every opponent we play and today we came out and executed.”
This game signified the greatest challenge the Bears had seen all year. The Cal bats, usually potent from the first inning on, were silenced for the first four, only accumulating four base runners before the fifth inning with only three hits.
Henderson kept the Aggie bats just as silent, not allowing a hit until the sixth inning and only allowing two base runners all game.
The two teams entered the fifth inning scoreless, but the Bears quickly put an end to the offensive impotence. A&M pitcher Mel Dumezich issued a leadoff walk to Cal centerfielder Frani Echavarria. Speedster Jamia Reid was up next and poked a single to the left side. Echavarria and Reid then stole second and third, putting them in scoring position for designated hitter Britt Vonk. The sophomore calmly singled through the hole on the right side, plating Echavarria and giving the Bears the first lead of the game.
After a Valerie Arioto strikeout and a Vonk stolen base, Elia Reid came up with two more runners in scoring position. Reid laid down a suicide squeeze bunt to the second base side and reached, allowing Jamia and Vonk to score, giving Cal an extra two-run cushion to put them up 3-0.
“Before I even came up, I told myself, ‘I’m going to go up and get the teams some runs,'” Elia Reid said. “Then Coach came up to me and said you need to get the bunt down, and the runners did the rest.”
The final two innings unfolded similarly to the first four, with no scoring on either side. Henderson did her part, striking out two in the sixth and two more in the seventh to solidify the win for the Bears and prevent the Aggies from making a last gasp comeback.
Henderson was the real story of the tilt. In seven innings, Henderson struck out 11, with only one hit and one walk allowed. The Aggies only managed to hit four balls in the air the entire day.
Cal takes on No. 6 Texas and No. 18 Hawaii Thursday in two games that should push the Bears to new competitive limits. On Tuesday night, the Longhorns shut the Warriors out 4-0 behind junior pitcher Blaire Luna’s 16 strikeouts. Luna, now 9-0 on the year, has held opposing hitters to a .149 average while maintaining a 0.62 ERA. Luna should start against the Bears Thursday, which should produce a pitchers’ duel of epic proportions.
Despite the Longhorns’ and Warriors’ prestige, the Bears are not fretting.
“We get our bunts down and keep making the routine plays,” Henderson said. “We’re playing loose and ready to go.”