Tigers Mercy Bears in Five-Inning, 13-2 Win

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It has been a big year for Jolene Henderson of the No. 8 Cal softball team.

After picking up the starting position in the circle to replace injured All-American Valerie Arioto, the sophomore seems to have a tireless arm. Over a week ago, the pitcher threw a perfect game for four innings against Cleveland State. The resulting 9-0 victory was the third no-hitter of her career. The Elk Grove, Calif., native has earned a 0.81 ERA this season and a 19-3 record.

Given her accolades, it was surprising to see her name absent from the starting roster for yesterday's game against Pacific.

Head coach Diane Ninemire's unexpected decision to keep the starting pitcher out of game was undoubtedly a factor playing into the resulting 13-2 mercy loss in Stockton, Calif..

Instead, freshman Arianna Erceg made her second start of the season. She took the mound for two innings, followed by freshman Cassandra Vega's 1.1 innings of relief. Erceg came back out in the bottom of the fourth to finish the game.

Last week, rain kept No. 8 Cal (21-4) off of the diamond; 11 days separated yesterday's match from the Bears' last competition. Fair weather returned to northern California yesterday for the rescheduled game against the Tigers (19-11).

Pacific fared better in the sunshine.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Tigers exploded off the plate. They sent home six runners in six hits to thrust the team forward 7-1.

"It was their timeliness and the fact that the took advantage of baserunners," catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt said. "We were able to shut them down eventually, but they played well that inning."

The Bears went scoreless in the third inning, fueling Pacific's ability to continue riding on the offensive momentum of the previous inning. Tiger pitcher Nikki Armagost soon jumped on a changeup from Vega to collect her second grand slam of the year.

"I think we could have hit better (in the third inning)," Ziegenhirt said. "Confidence is the name of the game and they kept it up on offense and defense, which helped a lot."

Ziegenhirt's sacrifice fly in the top of the first inning brought shortstop Britt Vonk home for the first run of the tilt. First baseman Jordan Wallace knocked the ball to right center in the top of the second inning to notch her third home run of the season.

"We lost focus once we got down a few runs," Ziegenhirt said. "I think we could have been more patient by making (Armagost) throw more pitches. Playing from behind is always tougher."

The Tigers' victory marked the second win of the season over a top-15 team and the first over a top-10 team in six years. It also closed Cal's preseason journey. Now, the Bears take the next turn in the road to head for their conference opener on April 1 against Arizona State for the team's first home appearance in almost four months.

"We are always growing," Ziegenhirt said. "This (game) was a good thing for us, a good learning experience to make us stronger."


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

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