Cal sweeps with third straight mercy win

Mary Zheng/File
Senior left fielder Jamia Reid led off the potent Cal lineup, hitting 2-for-5 and stealing two bases on Saturday. The Bears connected for 14 hits.

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After the second game of the Bears’ three-game series against Utah was snowed out, the Bear’s took advantage of the snowcapped scenery.

“We had a snowball fight,” said senior Jace Williams. “Some of the girls had never felt snow before!”

The next day, however, meant twice the business as Saturday was left to host a doubleheader against Utah to make up for the cancelled game.

Cal swept the three-game series at Ute Softball Field in Salt Lake City to remain undefeated in conference play. Both of Saturday’s games ended in mercy rulings, with Cal (36-1, 9-0 in the Pac-12) winning 11-3 and 12-3, respectively. The series showcased the Bears’ offensive arsenal, with seven different players boasting home runs on Saturday.

“It just shows how much depth we have as a team,” Williams said. “Overall, every player has a lot of talent. It doesn’t matter who is in or who is playing, everyone does a great job when it is their time — they produce.”

One of the players who had a breakout weekend offensively was Frani Echavarria. She knocked in five runners in Thursday’s series opener off of a home run and two doubles a feat she repeated on Saturday.

“I thought Frani had a phenomenal weekend,” Williams said. “While everyone contributed, she really stuck out at the plate.”

Echavarria’s 10 RBIs contributed to the Bears’ 33 total runs for the weekend, and Cal held the Utes (23-12, 0-6) to a total of six runs. Danielle Henderson hit a home run in each of the three games, and Breana Kostreba had two for herself over the weekend. Saturday’s first game saw five different Bears send shots over the fence.

While the Bears’ offense gets most of the attention, Williams believes that defense is the squad’s real strength. Anchored behind nationally prominent pitchers Valerie Arioto and Jolene Henderson — who each earned a win on Saturday — Cal rarely commits errors and has yet to allow more than five runs in a game this season.

“I’d even say one of our weaknesses is baserunning, and we don’t have a lot of weaknesses,” Williams said. “My motto is offense wins games, but defense wins championships. We always need to make plays behind our pitcher — that is a huge factor in any game, but especially the tough games.”

Such difficult matchups may soon be in store for the Bears. Though they have moved seamlessly through their first three conference series, even sweeping two top-10 teams, the Bears are careful not to underestimate their upcoming competition. The Pac-12 is the nation’s most competitive conference for softball, and Cal’s next two conference series set them against No. 19 Arizona and No. 7 Oregon.

“The Pac-12 winner comes down to percentages — every win is important, every loss hurts,” Williams said. “Expect our best effort every single game. It doesn’t matter who we are playing or what their record is. We are going out there and playing to the best of our ability.”

While Cal’s philosophy may be to take every game seriously, the stakes are raised against perennially prominent Arizona. The Utes are considered a nationally solid team — they were 23-9 coming into the series against the Bears. Arizona, however, seems to be at the top of the rankings nearly every year.

“They are a great program, and always have been,” Williams said. “We really need to be on our game. We never take any game lightly, but here we can’t take any pitch lightly.”