Bears Defeat Subpar Cal Poly

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On a scale of one to Pac-10, these games were probably about a three in difficulty.

Not that the No. 4 Cal softball team didn't have any problems in its doubleheader against Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo yesterday. In the first game, the Bears were only up by one as late as the fourth inning before the Mustangs threatened in the fifth by putting runners at second and third with one out. In the second game, Cal committed three errors.

But since Cal Poly isn't exactly the national champion-caliber team that Cal's conference competition will be, it didn't matter in the end.

Sophomore Jocelyn Forest wound up getting out of that fifth-inning jam by striking out two Mustangs batters in a row to get out the inning unscathed. And in the second game, the three errors had no effect on the eventual outcome, since the Bears were having no trouble hitting Cal Poly's Maggie Del Rio.

"It was good to get in two convincing home wins before we start Pac-10," said third baseman Candace Harper, who went 5-for-6 with four RBIs yesterday. "They were an average team, but the pitching was by far not the caliber we're going to see in the conference."

Cal (36-4) took the opener from the Mustangs, 5-1, before shutting down Cal Poly, 6-0, in the nightcap. The pair of games served as the Bears' final warmup before their real battle begins this Saturday when they open Pac-10 play against No. 8 Stanford.

Cal found its hitting groove in the second game, going a combined 13-for-30 from the plate. Seven Bears starters had at least one hit. Harper and senior Lisa Iancin paced the team, each notching 3-for-4 performances with a double and an RBI. Freshman Veronica Nelson continued her assault on the Cal record books, adding another blast to her single-season school-record 12 homers.

The Bears jumped out to an early lead in the bottom half of the first inning and never looked back. Nelson kicked off a two-out rally by slamming a full-count pitch from Del Rio to the opposite field for a solo homer. Iancin and Harper then hit back-to-back doubles to put Cal up, 2-0.

The Bears added three more runs in the fourth and another in the sixth to complete their domination of the Mustangs. Cal hurler Nicole DiSalvio claimed the win and Jennifer Deering finished up the tail end of a no-hitter.

"We got warmed up and made much better contact in the second game," Harper said. "But we need to do that in the first game. We aren't going to have doubleheaders anymore in Pac-10 (competition)."

Although the Bears had more difficulty at the plate in the opening game, they still managed to come away with the victory. The team also jumped out to a first-inning lead when Harper hit a laser down the third-base line to score leadoff hitter Pauline Duenas. Cal tacked on another run in the third to bring the score to 2-1.

Forest pitched her way out of the jam in the top of the fifth, and Duenas led off the bottom of the inning with a single up the middle. After right fielder Paige Bowie laid down a textbook sacrifice bunt to advance Duenas to second, Nelson bashed a long, stand-up double off the center field wall to bring home the Bears' third run. A Mustangs error allowed pinch runner Kristi Robles to score to give the Bears a comfortable 4-1 lead.

Despite the relative ease with which Cal disposed of Cal Poly, the Bears' season is all uphill from here. As they head into conference competition this weekend, the top five teams in the nation are all in the Pac-10. The lowest-ranked Pac-10 team is No. 23 Oregon.

"We've played 40 games now, we need to start (playing the conference schedule)," Harper said. "It's going to take a lot more than skill to win (the Pac-10). Every team has the talent to beat everyone else. We have to go out there with a lot of heart and win every inning."


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