Bears seek stability in home tilt with Ducks

Photo: First baseman Alex Robben went 1-2 with an RBI in the Bears' convincing 9-1 victory over St. Mary's on Wednesday afternoon.
Shannon Hamilton/Staff
First baseman Alex Robben went 1-2 with an RBI in the Bears' convincing 9-1 victory over St. Mary's on Wednesday afternoon.

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The No. 13 Cal softball team has been through a lot of adversity this season.

The Bears (25-8, 2-4) did not plan for All-American pitcher Valerie Arioto to be out with an injury for the entire season.

Pitcher Jolene Henderson and outfielders Elia Reid and Jamia Reid - three crucial starters - have all been sidelined with injury at some point.

"Consistency is our enemy right now," catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt said.

The return of Henderson and Elia Reid in recent weeks has helped stabilize Cal, which faces off against No. 17 Oregon (30-8, 2-4 in the Pac-10) in a weekend series starting today at Levine-Fricke Field at 3 p.m.

"We are becoming stronger because of working through (the injuries)," she said. "In the end, we will be stronger because of them."

When Henderson was out, freshman Arianna Erceg stepped into the circle. Likewise, freshman Ashley Decker's versatility in the outfield and on the base paths have helped the depleted team; she is third on the team with seven stolen bases.

According to Henderson, everyone has been putting in extra time, either before or after practice, in order to polish up on recent struggles and individual work.

Two areas, though, still need more attention, she said.

"Our defense has shown places where we can be the toughest out there," Henderson said. "Our hitting in some games shows that we can come out with the bats."

The Bears hope to avoid the unsteadiness that has plagued their recent series.

After suffering two losses to Arizona State two weeks ago, Cal finished strong and topped the Sun Devils in the last game of the series.

The Bears saw consistent batting down the lineup in theier first game against Washington last week, resulting in a 10-0 upset win. However, Cal dropped the next two games to the Huskies.

"We need to be more consistent, not just once in a weekend," Henderson said. "We really just have to show up with high energy. We are kind of a quiet team and don't always surge with energy.

"Coming in with energy and confidence is all you can ask for."

Like the Bears, Oregon fell in two of their last three. The Ducks lost, 2-0, to Arizona State last Friday despite pitcher Jessica Moore holding the nation's best hitting team to .087, shutting out the Sun Devils in the first six innings. After a 10-5 loss on Saturday, Oregon rebounded to serve ASU its fourth loss of the season in a 2-1 decision.

Against a team that is coming off a win over the best team in the country, Cal has set high expectations for its performance - even if it's without all the players it expected to play at the beginning of the season.

"Our team is coming together really well," Henderson said. "Getting the mental mindset is coming around.

"I expect a lot out of our team and only expect things that could happen."


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

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