Bears use walks to sweep No. 14 Bruins

Anna Vignet /File
Infielder Jace Williams was 1-2 in Sunday's win with three RBI, a walk, and a run scored.

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Cal softball put away the Bruins with an offense driven mainly by walks.

The Bears capitalized on lackluster pitching by UCLA’s Jessica Hall to finish off a series sweep of the No. 14 Bruins on Sunday. After snagging the first two wins in the home series on Friday and Saturday at Levine-Fricke Field with scores of 3-0 and 8-0 respectively, the No. 1 Bears emerged victorious on Sunday to claim their sixth series win in the conference.

Though the Bruins (33-15, 9-9 in Pac-12) scored their first runs of the series in the top of the first on Sunday, they could not stay the onslaught that commenced in the game’s later innings. Jamia Reid started things off for Cal (45-3, 16-2) with a steal to notch the first run in the bottom of the first, followed immediately by two runners off a Cheyenne Cordes single to left field. UCLA would only lead for the half inning, as the rest of the game proceeded much like the first inning, with the Bears getting players on base and running up the score.

The bottom of the second saw the bases loaded again, this time as senior Jace Williams stepped to the plate. She knocked in two on a base hit, and the third runner, Valerie Arioto, ran home when a wild pitch was too much for the catcher to handle.

After the Bruins scored for the final time in the top of the third, Cal yet again loaded the bases for Williams. She would fly out, but Arioto was able to score from third off a sacrifice fly to bring the score to 8-3 in the bottom of the third.

The final runs came in the bottom of the sixth when Jolene Henderson scored two runners to end the game early. Henderson not only put the game out of reach, but she held off the Bruins on the defensive end as well.

The pitcher struck out seven and allowed only five hits on the way to her 26th win of the season. Furthermore, she did not allow a single walk, whereas walks proved to be UCLA’s Achilles heel.

The Bruins pitchers allowed 11 walks, which proved fatal when the Bears scored with the bases loaded three innings in a row. Franni Echevarria and Arioto each saw three walks. Arioto currently leads the nation in walks and is second in on base percentage.

While Hall’s pitching was spotty in the third game, her first two bouts with the Bears were much stronger. Though the scores do not show it, she gave the Cal line-up quite a challenge as she struck out 22 batters over the first two games. She pitched all three games, accumulating 276 throws over the three-day span.

Errors plagued UCLA throughout the weekend. The Bears took advantage of the Bruins’ mistakes to bump up the score in each game. Passed balls, wild pitches, and dropped balls all allowed Cal runners to score.

Although they were able to capitalize on errors, the Bears did not notch a single home run in the series. While this might not be unusual for other teams, this squad started the year hitting homers in almost every game, as their powerful offense stifled opponents.

Now, however, it appears that the offense has shifted styles and finesse is the name of the game as the Bears face stronger pitchers. The squad played its last two series without its typical offensive force, but have made up for it with systematic play. The Bears put runners on base, took advantage of scoring opportunities, and capitalized on opponents’ errors. In the second game of the series, UCLA accumulated three errors, with Bears scoring on two of them. The Bears have demonstrated their versatility and continue to pace the Pac-12.

The team is heading into the final leg of conference play, facing No. 22 Oregon State away next weekend and concluding at home against No. 3 Arizona State the weekend after. Each series will be crucial for the Bears as they look to end conference play and head into the postseason as the best team in the nation.