Stanford Powers Past Softball in Shutout





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STANFORD - If the Cal softball team believes in karma or luck or any sort higher power, the Bears probably have some shopping to do. Maybe they need to add a barrel of rabbits' feet, a bulk order of horseshoes and a Costco-size package of four-leaf clovers to their list of must-haves.

Because right now nothing is going their way, and they could use all the help they can get.

Until this weekend, Cal had never lost a season series to Stanford. The No. 9 Bears held a 39-7 record all-time against the Cardinal.

None of that mattered Saturday, when Cal lost its second game to No. 12 Stanford this season, 2-0, at the Stanford Softball Complex. With the victory, the Cardinal has taken two of three games from the Bears this year, winning the series for the first time ever.

But just like most of the Bears' recent games, the team didn't lose because they played badly through the whole game. Cal lost because it couldn't execute the little things necessary for a win in a tight ballgame.

"We out-hit them," Bears coach Diane Ninemire said. "We played better defense. We got runners in scoring position. But once again, we just couldn't get that hit to drive in a run. It's a simple game - we're making it a lot tougher than it has to be."

Cal (41-15, 3-9 in the Pac-10) has now dropped seven of its last eight Pac-10 games and won't have an easy time reversing that trend any time soon. No. 1 Washington and No. 3 UCLA are next up on the Bears' schedule.

The reason Stanford won came down to one inning - the fourth - and one person - Jessica Mendoza. Mendoza fouled Cal hurler Jocelyn Forest's first offering of the inning long down the third-base line. On the second pitch, Mendoza adjusted and knocked a towering shot over the fence in right-center to give the Card a 1-0 lead.

Boosted by Mendoza's solo shot, the Cardinal (36-12, 4-8) mounted a one-out rally. Senior Kellie Wiginton drew a walk and advanced to second when freshman Cassi Brangham checked a bloop into center field. Designated player Maureen LeCocq then knocked the ball to left field to load the bases. After junior Nicole DiSalvio came in to relieve Forest, Stanford's Jenni Shideler punched DiSalvio's first pitch through the left side of the infield to score Wiginton and increase the Card's lead to 2-0.

The Bears managed to escape the inning by trapping Brangham in a pickle between third and home for the second out and then forcing Lauren Gellman to fly out to first baseman Veronica Nelson. But the damage was already done and Stanford would ride that two-run lead to victory.

Meanwhile, Cal put runners in scoring position four times - twice with no outs - but could not find a way to score. The Bears stranded eight runners to the Cardinal's six.

"We beat ourselves," Ninemire said. "We didn't get our bunts down when we needed to and we couldn't get that key hit. We must start changing our ways - soon."

Cal threatened in the top of the second when Lisa Iancin led off with a single to left and then advanced to second when Nelson followed up with a single of her own. But the Bears could not

capitalize as Paige Bowie, Courtney Scott and Mikella Pedretti went down in order.

Nelson started off the top of the fourth with a single up the middle but advanced to second on a fielding error by Mendoza in center field. With one out, Scott singled up the middle to move Nelson to third, but that would be as far as Cal would get. Pedretti struck out looking and Nelson got caught going home on contact by designated hitter Kristen Morley.

Part of the Bears' difficulty has been their inability to rely on the dominating pitching that was the team's forte last year. According to Ninemire, DiSalvio has not been able to pitch at her full velocity recently, and Forest has been plagued by a number of health problems, including recovering from off-season shoulder surgery, a bout with the flu and a recent hip-flexor strain that has limited her practice time. Still, the pitching staff seems to be rebounding from its recent woes.

"With so many strikeouts in our last game (against Stanford) we had to go with (Forest)," said Ninemire, referring to Forest's personal-best 17 strikeout performance against the Cardinal in March. "She hasn't been able to throw as much lately because of the soreness. She just had one bad inning today."

Up until Mendoza's fourth-inning homer, Forest had only given up one single, struck out two and sent Stanford down in order in the third inning. DiSalvio was solid in relief, giving up only two hits and holding the Card scoreless in the final two innings.

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