Without Henderson, Cal softball embarrassed by ASU

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With the scorching sun beaming down on Farrington Stadium, the Bears were seemingly in hibernation mode, and the Sun Devils were in domination mode.

The Cal softball team (35-12, 9-9 Pac-12) was swept in humbling fashion by Arizona State (42-7, 13-5 Pac-12) this weekend, losing 10-2, 11-0 and 5-3.

Head coach Diane Ninemire declined to comment following Sunday’s series finale, stating through a spokesperson that she would rather have her players speak for their performance.

Missing staff ace Jolene Henderson because of a knee injury, Cal was forced to rely on Nisa Ontiveros and Nikki Owens. Before Friday, the two pitchers had combined for seven career starts.

All it took was one inning for the Bears to learn that life without Henderson isn’t a pretty one. With the All-American watching from the dugout, Ontiveros surrendered six runs in the first inning of the first game on Friday.

“(My pitches) were up in the zone…just a lot of plate,” Ontiveros said. “They took advantage of it.”

Owens stepped into the circle to replace Ontiveros, giving up four earned runs in just 4.1 innings of work.

Because Cal only managed to score two runs and was trailing by eight runs, the game was called after five innings.

“We have much more potential than we’re showing,” Cheyenne Cordes said.

The last time the Cal softball team gave up at least 10 runs in a single game was two years ago against Pacific. The last time the Bears were run-ruled was against Kentucky that same season.

Owens got the start in the second game, but it wasn’t an improvement from Ontiveros’ start. Lasting just two innings, Owens gave up eight earned runs.

After the first two games of the series, the explosive Arizona State lineup was hitting .444 in the series.

“I have a lot of faith things are only going to get better from here,” Cordes said when asked about the pitching performances of Ontiveros and Owens.

Hoping the third time was the charm, Cal sent Ontiveros back out to start game three. After surrendering one run in the first inning, the Bears took their first lead in the series off home runs by Breana Kostreba and Vanessa Alvarez in the second inning.

The wheels fell off in the third inning though, as Arizona State regained the lead with a four-run rally. Cordes botched two tough ground balls in the inning, that, if fielded cleanly, would have gotten Ontiveros out of the inning.

“Sometimes you get bad hops,” Cordes said. “If I could go back and do it differently, I wouldn’t.”

Still, Cal had its chances to get back into the game. The Bears loaded the bases in the fifth with two outs, but Lindsey Ziegenhirt just missed a grand slam when she flew out to deep center.

In the bottom of the seventh, Cal cut the lead to two, but with two outs and the tying runner at the plate, Ziegenhirt once again just missed going yard. This time, the senior pulled the ball just to the left of the foul ball pole in left field, before eventually grounding into a fielder’s choice, rendering the sweep complete.

Sean Wagner-McGough covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @seanjwagner.