Cal softball drops two of three to Oregon

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It’s been two whole months since Cal softball’s last losing weekend.

That’s when the Bears were at .500 and the season was just beginning. Since then, the Bears have gone on a 22-game win streak, traveled to eight different places and played a total of 29 games.

After two losses to Oregon this weekend, the Bears ended their three-game series with just one win on Saturday. Cal won the second game of the series in a narrow 3-1 margin, but Oregon’s hitters stayed hot in the first and last games, crushing Cal 5-1 on Saturday and 9-3 on Sunday.

“Oregon came out strong and we were ready to play, but they came out swinging harder than we did,” said third baseman Danielle Henderson.

No. 5 Cal, which already swept Utah and beat Arizona twice, lost its first conference series of the season.

The Bears (30-6) could not keep the momentum from Saturday’s win flowing, as they dropped Sunday’s game in their largest loss of the weekend. The Ducks tallied runs in five of the seven innings while Cal could only get their bats moving in the fourth. Oregon’s offense had a field day with four home runs, led by Alexa Peterson’s two runs and three hits.

Jolene Henderson gave up a season-high 15 hits in the loss and gave up seven earned runs, while Oregon (33-6) used a combination of both Moore and Hawkins to hold Cal to only six hits and three runs.

Jolene Henderson, who recently became the winningest pitcher in Cal history, gave up an uncharacteristic 14 runs this weekend. Henderson’s pitching could not contain Oregon’s offense. Peterson and Janie Takeda led the way for the Ducks, combining for nine hits during the series.

During the first game, it was a showdown between the two pitching aces: Henderson and Oregon’s Jessica Moore. Neither team scored during the first three innings until the top of the fourth inning, when second baseman Kaylan Howard clobbered a homer to right field. This started off a 4-0 run for the Ducks, capped off by a run by Takeda in the fifth.

Cal finally put up a run when shortstop Britt Vonk tripled and then scored on a throwing error made by Oregon at the bottom of the fifth inning. This would turn out to be Cal’s only run of the game as the Bears had no answer for Moore’s pitching. Moore ended the game with seven strikeouts and allowed no walks during the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader.

The Bears finally found their drive during the second game of the series.

“After the first game, we came out with strong defense and we were really backing up our pitcher,” Danielle Henderson said. When we got hits, we hit the ball solid.”

Danielle Henderson was the answer for Cal during the second game. With two home runs — one during the bottom of the second and another during the bottom of the fifth — Danielle Henderson lead Cal past Oregon, 3-1. Oregon switched to Hawkins for the second game and Cal’s offense was able to take advantage.

The Bears have not given up this many runs since they were at .500 during the first tournament, and must find a way to adjust soon. Cal is in its toughest stretch of the season, as the team faces No. 12 UCLA and No. 2 Arizona State next week.

“We have to go out without fear, without doubting ourselves,” Danielle Henderson said. “We have to truly believe we are the best softball team out here and can do anything that we want.”

Johnny Zhang covers softball. Contact him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @thejohnnyzhang.