No. 6 Cal Battles Pac-10 Heavyweights No. 1 UCLA, No. 8 Washington
April 25, 2002
WHATS ON TAP: No. 6 California (44-14, 8-4 Pac-10) resumes conference play with games against No. 1 UCLA and No. 8 Washington after sweeping a doubleheader from Saint Mary's, 3-0 and 4-0, Wednesday. Cal hosts the Bruins Friday at 2 p.m. while the Huskies come in Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. The Bears face a top-ranked team in UCLA for the second consecutive weekend.
THE WEEK THAT WAS: Cal shook up what looked like a two-horse race for the Pac-10 crown as it stunned the Arizona schools with a weekend sweep. The Bears defeated Arizona State, 3-2, Friday as Jen Deering improved to 12-2 on the year after pitching four innings with four strikeouts, while surrendering just two hits. On Saturday, Cal had one of the biggest regular season wins in recent years as it battled to defeat No. 1 Arizona. An even bigger feat was the Bears handing All-American Jennie Finch only her second loss in 66 decisions. The win for the Bears also snapped a 10-game losing skid to the Wildcats, which dated back to May 1, 2000. On Sunday, Cal completed the sweep as Jocelyn Forest struck out 15 Wildcat batters, including eight consecutive in a three-inning stretch. She was a Jennie Finch solo homerun away from tossing a no-hitter. The one-hitter was Forest's fifth of the season.
SWEEPING OF ARIZONA SCHOOLS A FIRST: Last weekend's sweep of Arizona and Arizona State was the first time Cal had accomplished the feat since the inception of Pac-10 softball in 1987. Although the Bears have won weekend series from the two schools, the 'Cats and the Devils always found a way to pull through with at least one win until last weekend.
TIMELY OFFENSE LEADS TO WEEKEND UPSETS: The Bears weren't necessarily hitting better, but hitting at the right time. Against the Arizona school, particularly against the Wildcats, Cal came through in the clutch with runners on base. In Saturday's game, freshman Jessica Pamanian went yard with Courtney Scott on base. In the fifth inning, Scott did some damage of her own as she belted a double down the left field line to bring in the eventual game-winning run. On Sunday, Scott again brought in a crucial run as freshman Kaleo Eldredge scored from second. Kristen Morley went 2-for-4 this weekend with runners in scoring position and Eldredge went 1-for-2, while Scott was an impressive 3-for-6 with runners on.
PAC-10 TITLE IN STRIKING DISTANCE: Although the conference schedule is only at its halfway point, and the league champion still very much in doubt, the Bears remain in the hunt for its first Pac-10 Championship since the first year of Pac-10 softball in 1987. Cal is just a half game behind Arizona (41-7, 8-3 Pac-10) and one game behind UCLA (41-6, 9-3 Pac-10) for the top spot with an 8-4 mark. Trailing behind the Bears is ASU at 7-4.
SCOUTING UCLA: The top-ranked Bruins (41-6, 9-3 Pac-10) defeated No. 8 Washington, 5-3, Wednesday to claim sole possession of first place in the Pac-10. UCLA swept the Oregon schools last weekend. The Bruins are led by All-American Stacey Nuveman (.537, 65 H, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 1.017 SLG) and Natasha Watley (.506, 87 H, 30 RBI, .663 SLG, 32 SB), who are both hitting above the .500 plateau. In their last meeting, UCLA took both games from Cal, winning 3-0 and 1-0. The Bruins are currently on a 10-game winning streak against the Bears and lead the all-time series 58-13.
SCOUTING WASHINGTON: No. 8 Washington (37-14, 6-6 Pac-10) swept the Oregon schools last weekend, while falling to No. 1 UCLA Wednesday, 5-3, as Claire Sua's sixth-inning grand slam helped lift the Bruins past the Huskies. Jaime Clark (.432, 67 H, 15 HR, 61 RBI, .819 SLG, 21 SB) and Kristen Rivera (.374, 15 HR, 56 RBI, .755 SLG) lead UW on offense. In the circle, Tia Bollinger (16-7, 1.22 ERA, 144 K) and Ashley Boek (15-2, 1.11 ERA, 117 K) will be relied upon to stop the Bears. In Cal's last meeting with UW, the Bears won, 4-1, on the strength of Veronica Nelson's two-run homer in the fifth inning, while Jocelyn Forest threw a one-hitter en route to 14 strikeouts. Huskies lead the series 20-18 all-time.