After tepid start to season, Cal softball regains footing with four weekend wins

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The Bears are back in business.

Following its 2-2 stint last weekend at Tucson, Ariz., the Cal softball team turned its luck around in Las Vegas this weekend at the Easton Desert Classic, led by two superstar performances from seniors Lindsey Ziegenhirt and Jolene Henderson.

The Bears went 4-0, beating Nevada, Utah Valley, San Jose State and Portland State. The win streak came at the perfect time after dropping two games against Kentucky and Florida last weekend.

“We were more confident in what we were doing,” Ziegenhirt said. “We were shaking off the nerves and all the cobwebs from last weekend, but we did a really good job in playing the way we knew we could.”

Cal got the ball rolling right away on Friday morning with Henderson only allowing one hit in the Bears’ 5-0 win. The Bears pulled away in the fourth inning, propelled by Ziegenhirt’s three RBI.

“It was necessary that we needed to win these games, and from here on out, we just can’t lose,” said Cal coach Diane Ninemire.

The Bears carried their dominance over to the next two games against Utah Valley and San Jose State on Saturday. In the 12-4 win against Utah Valley, the Bears dominated offensively, piling up seven runs in the second inning. The mercy rule was called after a five-run inning gave Cal an insurmountable advantage.

During the second game against San Jose State, the offense was absent until the fourth inning, the score remaining 0-0 to that point. Jolene Henderson and sophomore Cheyenne Cordes provided a late spurt of offense with two RBI each, helping end the game 6-0.

Throughout the doubleheader, Henderson led the team on both the offensive and defensive ends by pitching the shutout against the Spartans while hitting a home run in both games.

“This weekend we kept stringing hits together,” said third baseman Danielle Henderson. “We didn’t try to do too much every time we were at bat. Instead, we took it at our own pace and our defense really came through as well.”

Cal capped off their weekend with an incredible performance from Ziegenhirt. Ziegenhirt hit a grand slam and a two-run homer in Cal’s 9-2 victory over Portland State.

“I was seeing the ball well and not putting a lot of pressure on myself,” said Ziegenhirt. “I was just thinking ‘see ball, hit ball.’”

After starting the season with a disappointing 1-2 record, the Bears have won six straight. Even with five new freshmen and only two seniors, team chemistry is coming together and the players are beginning to adapt to their roles.

Jolene’s performance this weekend stood out as the most important factor in an increased optimism of the Bears’ fate. After Florida uncharacteristically lit her up for seven runs last week, the senior buckled down majorly during this tournament. She pitched 24 innings and allowed only three runs, good for a 1.13 ERA.

“You have to be willing to accept your role and you don’t necessarily have to like your role. What’s important is that on one given day, you have to go out and play your role to the best of your ability,” Ninemire said.

Johnny Zhang covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]