Softball: Bears Looking to Heat Things Up Against Arizona, ASU

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The first time you can call it an upset. The second time proves it was no fluke.

The No. 5 Cal softball team will be looking to prove its worth when it travels to Tucson, Ariz. Friday to take on No. 2 Arizona in the first leg of a weekend road trip.

The Bears (45-16, 9-6 in the Pac-10) swept Arizona State and then-No. 1 Arizona in an April 19-21 homestand, and those teams will be looking for revenge.

"They're both great teams and it's going to be hot and they always have crazy fans," Cal pitcher Jen Deering said. "But we would love to beat them there."

The Bears get their road trip started with a Friday game against No. 2 Arizona (44-7, 11-3).

Cal downed the Wildcats 5-2 and 2-1 earlier this season, handing Arizona its first pair of consecutive losses since 1999 and knocking it from its perch atop the national rankings.

Jennie Finch, who surrendered five runs to the Bears April 20 in her second loss in 66 decisions, will look to shut down Cal.

Finch is 26-2 on the season with a 0.79 ERA and 275 strikeouts.

The 'Cats send a high-powered offense to the plate, with Lovie Jung's .392 batting average and 14 home runs leading the way.

Leneah Manuma is batting .339 with 17 dingers and 62 RBIs, while Finch adds a .353 average, 15 homers and 52 RBIs to the lineup.

"They're a power team and they can score a lot of runs really quick," Bears third baseman Candace Harper said.

Cal travels to Tempe, Ariz. to take on No. 4 ASU (38-13, 8-6) Saturday and Sunday.

Phelan Wright paces the Sun Devils' offense with a .449 average and seven homers.

Cara Brun also adds some punch, batting .395 with eight homers.

In the circle, Erica Beach anchors ASU's rotation with a 25-10 record, 1.08 ERA and 158 strikeouts.

"They started the season strong but they've been slowing down," Deering said. "We need to jump on them and get a quick lead, but we definitely think we can win all three games this weekend."

The Bears' offense will need to get back on track after struggling last weekend against UCLA and Washington.

"We just couldn't put anything together on offense," Cal coach Diane Ninemire said. "We have to get that turned around and produce some runs."

Cal will look to leadoff hitter Kaleo Eldredge, with her .322 average and team-leading 68 hits and nine stolen bases, to spark its attack.

In the cleanup spot, Veronica Nelson continues to produce, batting .347 with nine homers and 35 RBIs despite being pitched around for the most part.

For teams avoiding Nelson, the Bears' RBI leader Courtney Scott is waiting with her .321 average and 40 RBIs.

In the circle, Cal has a quartet of solid pitchers, starting with ace Jocelyn Forest (20-10, 1.08 ERA).

Deering is 12-2 on the season, and freshmen Cassie Bobrow (6-1, 1.06 ERA) and Kelly Anderson (7-3, 1.26 ERA) have seen more action recently.

But the major ingredient for success this weekend is a return to the defensive prowess that evaporated against Washington.

"Defense has been one of our strengths all season, but we had some major lapses this weekend," Ninemire said after facing Washington. "We need to get back to basics and just play solid defense."


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