Bears crush St. Mary’s in warmup for Arizona battle

Mary Zheng/File
Right fielder Ashley Decker and the Bears blanked the Gaels, 9-0, with at least one run in every inning save the second.

Ho, hum.

At Cottrell Field in Moraga, Calif., the No. 1 Cal softball team disposed of yet another opponent in dominating fashion, defeating the St. Mary’s Gaels 9-0 on Wednesday. The Bears jumped out to a first inning lead and never relinquished the advantage, taking care of another nonconference opponent with relative ease.

“These kinds of games, you worry your team will lose focus,” said coach Diane Ninemire. “But this team is on a mission, and they understood they had to come out and play as if it was any other day.”

Valerie Arioto and Breana Kostreba hit home runs for Cal, pacing an offensive attack that scored at least a run every inning besides the second.

Arioto also took the mound for the Bears, pitching four shutout innings to secure the win. Arioto scattered three hits and walked one while striking out six, never allowing the Gaels to advance past second base.

Jolene Henderson shut down St. Mary’s for the final three innings, allowing three hits while walking none.

Cal did not wait long to initiate the scoring barrage. Jamia Reid led off the game with a single and promptly stole second. After a Britt Vonk single put runners on the corners, Arioto hit a groundball that scored Reid and advanced Vonk to third. Two batters later, a Kostreba single to right gave the Bears a 2-0 advantage before St. Mary’s could even pick up its bats.

After a scoreless second, Cal tacked on two more in the third on a two-run homer by Kostreba, who was the offensive star for the Bears, batting 2 for 3 with 3 RBI’s.

After tacking on a run in the fourth and fifth, respectively, Arioto’s solo shot in the sixth gave the Bears a 7-0 advantage.

A two-out error in the seventh by the Gaels enabled two more runs to cross the plate for Cal, giving the game its final score at 9-0.

The Bears take on Arizona in a three-game series starting this Friday in Berkeley, and the hype for the matchup is already beginning to build. In anticipation of the increased attendance for the premium matchup, Cal Athletics has added 700 extra seats in the outfield of Levine-Fricke Field.

The Wildcats may prove to be the Bears’ toughest opponent to date. Although beginning their Pac-12 slate with three consecutive losses to rival Arizona State, Arizona has recovered, beating Washington and Stanford two out of three and sweeping Utah. Cal must be weary of slugger Shelby Pendley, who is hitting .358 with 14 HR’s and anchors the Wildcat offense.

Although the score of today’s game was rather one-sided, Ninemire still saw a need for improvement, especially with the impending matchup with the Wildcats.

“We did a lot of good things today, like steal bases and get timely hits,” Ninemire said. “But we’re going to be playing a higher-caliber team. Our pitchers walked a couple people today and we’re going to have to clean that up. We’ll have to do all of that this weekend.”