Cal Set to Continue Hot Streak With Indiana Rematch in Desert

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It was ironic that the Cal softball team was singing, "This Little Light of Mine" at Wednesday's practice.

With the rain that prevented the team from finishing its five-game lineup last weekend, the lyrics, "Let it shine, let it shine let it shine," could be seen as hopes for clear skies this weekend.

After two big wins to add to their now-three game winning streak, the Bears (5-1) are confident traveling down to Palm Springs, Calif., for the Cathedral City Classic, starting tomorrow.

Last week's wins against then-No. 8 Missouri and Santa Barbara warranted one step up in the rankings for the No. 14 Cal softball team. The team took advantage of the opportunity and defeated the highest-ranked squad it has seen thus far in the preseason.

"I do think that we have the potential to go higher in the rankings," center fielder Frani Echavarria said. "It is a good starting point, but we definitely don't want to settle on that."

One significant factor of last week's success was Jolene Henderson's efforts to hold down the opposition's batting average to 0.146. Her two complete-game wins this past weekend earned her recognition as the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for the first time in her career.

Cal hopes that Henderson will continue to bring the heat during this weekend's rematch against Indiana (5-5) in the Big League Dreams Sports Park today to open the tournament.

The Bears came away with a 3-0 win against the Hoosiers on the tail end of Cal's opening weekend on Feb. 13.

"We have seen their No. 1 pitcher, they have seen our pitcher, so that is definitely going to be a factor," catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt said. "I think the batters are going to be the same, so the strategy pretty much stays the same."

After closing out the double-header against Indiana and Massachusetts (2-3) on Friday, Saturday features only one game - against No. 20 LSU (9-3). The SEC is arguably the strongest conference outside of the Pac-10, and it was Georgia who defeated Cal last year in the Super Regionals to advance to the Women's College World Series.

"I think it would be a great win for our team if we got it," Echavarria said. "We have just been working hard on the things we need to get done to win."

Specifically, she mentioned the team's work on honing its small ball skills by getting ahead in pitching counts, making routine plays and stealing bases to manufacture runs.

Ziegenhirt also added that another aspect of practice has centered on the team's hitting.

"We get a lot of runners on base and we tend to string our hits together well, but we need more run production to back up our pitching and defense, which has been really stellar, she said. "We don't give up that many runs, so it is our goal to score more than we have been."

Sunday's tilt against Cal Poly (2-8) will finish out the weekend's festivities.


Kelly Suckow covers softball. Contact her at [email protected]

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