Up by one run in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Cal softball team was just one out away from snapping its nine-game losing streak. All-American pitcher Jolene Henderson, finally healthy after suffering a left knee injury on April 21, was tasked with slamming the door on the No. 12 Huskies (38-15, 16-8 Pac-12).
Henderson (30-9) made sure the No. 17 Bears (36-17,10-14 Pac-12) left Husky Softball Stadium in Seattle with a win. Striking out the first two batters of the final inning, the senior allowed a two-out base runner before inducing a flyout to center field to secure the 3-2 win. After doing nothing but losing for the past three weeks, the Bears finally got off the schneid.
Although the Bears were outhit in the game 9-6, sophomore first baseman Breana Kostreba launched a two-run homer in the second inning to provide the offensive spark. With Danielle Henderson on first base, Kostreba took a changeup from Washington pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby (21-7) and gave Jolene Henderson some invaluable run support.
“I sat on the second pitch that I got, which was a changeup,” Kostreba said. “The game before, I had struggled with the changeup, so I was looking for it.”
The next inning, freshman outfielder and speedster Khala Taylor reached first base on a bunt single. After advancing to second base on a groundout, Taylor was brought home by a two-out RBI triple by Danielle Henderson. It was Henderson’s first triple of the season and provided the winning tally.
Jolene Henderson also received plenty of defensive support. Despite committing a fielding error, Taylor also threw out two runners at the plate in the first and fifth innings.
“(Khala’s) a game changer,” Henderson said. “She really just shut down that team trying to run on her.”
Despite the win, the Bears still lost the series to Washington, losing games one and two by scores of 7-4 and 9-8, respectively.
Less than 24 hours before Saturday’s win, Henderson had the opportunity to bring home a win in game two. After rallying back from a four-run deficit in the sixth inning, the Bears pulled in front of the Huskies 8-7 in the seventh inning. Henderson retired the first two batters she faced in the seventh, but when third baseman Danielle Henderson committed a throwing error, the Huskies pounced.
After back-to-back two-out singles, the game was headed to extra innings. And just two innings later, Washington catcher Shawna Wright blasted a solo shot to left field for the 9-8 victory, extending Cal’s losing streak to nine games.
“We knew that we could have won that game and that we should have won that game,” said Kostreba.
With the Pac-12 season now expired, Cal finished in fifth place in the conference. Despite not meeting pre-season expectations set by their Pac-12 title in 2012, the Bears will head into the first round of the postseason, the NCAA Regionals, finally healthy again. After losing Henderson, shortstop Cheyenne Cordes and utility player Victoria Jones to injuries within the past three weeks, all three players saw the field this weekend.
“All the pieces are just coming together,” Henderson said. “(We’re going to) start a new streak.”