Back in Berkeley, Cal begins home stand with Gaels

Photo: Sophomore catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt batted .253 her freshman year and finished second on the team with 15 home runs. She is hitting .207 this year and is fourth on the team with three homers.
Zully Juarez/Staff
Sophomore catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt batted .253 her freshman year and finished second on the team with 15 home runs. She is hitting .207 this year and is fourth on the team with three homers.

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Generally speaking, most teams play better at home. But for the Cal softball team, it's still too early to tell whether or not that trend applies.

After playing only three games at Levine-Fricke Field in 2011, the No. 13 Bears will host St. Mary's today at 3 p.m. in the first of an 11-game home stand.

"I call ourselves the 'Road Warriors,' because we barely have any home games," third baseman Jace Williams said. "We almost feel more at home when we play away."

Cal (24-8, 2-4 in the Pac-10) is currently sitting seventh in the conference, and has dropped four of its last seven games.

St. Mary's (5-16, 1-3 in the PCSC) comes into Berkeley with its own recent struggles, having lost three of its last four contests. The Gaels are 0-43 all time against the Bears and lost both matchups in 2010.

However, that isn't to say that Cal plans on taking St. Mary's lightly.

"At this level, any team can beat any team," Williams said. "We really need to come out and take this team as seriously as every other team we play this year."

The Bears will look to get back on track after a tough series against No. 7 Washington. After jumping on the Huskies with a 10-0 win on Friday, the Cal offense fell flat as the team dropped the next two matchups, in which the team left 11 runners on base while only producing two runs.

"Our bats went dead Sunday against Washington, so we need to get back into our groove and be more aggressive with hittable pitches," Williams said.

The Gaels will likely start sophomore pitcher Britany Linton, who leads the team with a 5-5 record and a 3.08 ERA. The rest of the St. Mary's pitching rotation has yet to win a game, going a combined 0-11 in 26 appearances.

On offense, the Gaels have struggled too. Junior Kayla Gonzales leads off with a less than impressive team-best .283 batting average. As a team, St. Mary's is hitting just .215, and have allowed its opponents to hit .312.

The Gaels won't get any breaks today when they run into Cal's Jolene Henderson, who's established herself as one of the top pitchers in the Pac-10. The sophomore boasts a 22-5 record, including 15 complete games, and a 0.87 ERA.

Thanks to Henderson's work in the circle, Cal has outhit its opponents .284 to .206 on the season.

Despite their hitting, the Bears are averaging less than three runs an outing over their last nine games - including a two-run output in their March 30 loss to unranked Pacific.

"We've already lost a midweek game that could hurt us for seeding in the postseason, and we can't afford to lose another one," Williams said. "It's crucial for us to win every series coming up."


Connor Byrne covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]

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