No. 2 Cal Closes Regular Season with No. 3 Arizona, Arizona State

May 11, 2005

BERKELEY -

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This Week:May 12 vs. No. 3 Arizona (37-9; 11-7), 3:00 p.m.May 13 vs. Arizona State (28-22, 3-15), 1:00 p.m.May 14 vs. Arizona State, 1:00 p.m.All games at Levine-Fricke Field, Berkeley, Calif.

WHAT'S ON TAP: Though it will take a bit of luck to capture the Pac-10 title, the No. 2 California softball team can still post one of its best conference finishes with a strong showing in a season-ending homestand against No. 3 Arizona (May 12) and Arizona State (May 13-14). With 11-7 Pac-10 records, third-place Cal and Arizona trail conference-leader Oregon State by two games and second-place Stanford by one.

FOR CAL TO CAPTURE THE TITLE ... : Numerous breaks must go the Bears' way if Cal is to capture its first league pennant since 1987. A quick look at how the stars must align:
1) Cal has to win its remaining games.
2) If Arizona loses to Cal, the Wildcats must take both games of their weekend series at No. 4 Stanford.
3) A win by last-place Arizona State against Stanford May 12 isn't mandatory, but it would be pivotal if the Cardinal defeat Arizona at least once.
4) No. 6 Oregon State must drop its remaining three games - at No. 20 Washington (May 12) and at No. 12 UCLA (May 13-14).
Last season the Bears won their final eight regular-season games to tie Stanford for second place behind Arizona. Despite all of the Bears' postseason success under head coach Diane Ninemire, Cal has finished as high as third in the Pac-10 standings on just five occasions in her 18-year tenure.

NCAA SELECTION SUNDAY: The 64-team field for the 2005 NCAA Division I Softball Championship will be unveiled May 15 at 4:30 p.m. (PST) on ESPNews. Regional round pairings and sites will be announced at that time. Cal, ranked second nationally, is a safe bet to make its 20th consecutive tournament appearance, the longest active streak of any Pac-10 club.

THORSON COMES THROUGH: Coming down the Pac-10 stretch, junior Kristina Thorson (20-4) has not only proven to be the Bears' top pitcher, but has given Cal a shot at one of their best Pac-10 finishes ever. Thorson hasn't allowed a run in her last 30.1 innings pitched and has taken just one loss since April 2. Her most dominating appearance of the year came in a 1-0 victory against No. 25 Oregon April 7. Thorson tossed a one-hitter, didn't allow a runner past first base, faced just one hitter over the minimum and struck out six. Thorson (0.99), the only Pac-10 pitcher with a sub-1.00 ERA, is third in opposing batting average (.151), fourth in victories (20-4) and sixth in strikeouts (192). Along with teammates Kelly Anderson (23-6) and Sarah Adams (1-0), the Cal pitching staff leads the conference in wins (44), ERA (1.18), opposing batting average (.152) and least home runs allowed (16) and is second in runs allowed (73), hits allowed (192), innings pitched (363.1) and batters struck out looking (106). Additionally, Thorson and Anderson have won 20-plus games in back-to-back years, becoming the first Cal pair to achieve the distinction.

NINEMIRE'S PUSH FOR 800: She's already compiled the most wins and one of the best winning percentages in California athletics history. Cal's next victory, however, will give Ninemire another milestone - career win No. 800. Ninemire (799-379, .678) would become just the 20th Division I softball coach to amass 800 wins. In her 18 seasons, she has captured a national championship (2002), led Cal to six straight Women's College World Series appearances (eight overall), reached the postseason and won at least 35 games each year and never suffered a losing campaign. Her first coaching win came Feb. 15, 1988 with a 2-0 victory against Pacific.

WEEK IN REVIEW (5/2-5/8): Following a 2-0 loss to then-No. 7 Oregon State April 6, the Bears defeated No. 25 Oregon by consecutive 1-0 scores (April 7-8). Against the Beavers, starter Anderson struck out seven - her highest total since fanning eight April 13 - and allowed three hits, two of which happened to be back-to-back RBI doubles in the fourth inning. A day after Thorson dominated Oregon (see above), Anderson rebounded with a two-hitter and eight strikeouts against the Ducks. In the April 18 victory, shortstop Chelsea Spencer hit a first-inning solo homer for the game's lone run.

STEALING SUCCESS: The 2005 season is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for Cal on the base paths. With 88 team thefts this year, the Bears have a chance to break the program record of 104 stolen bases, set in 1979. As a team, Cal leads the Pac-10, with 21 more stolen bases than second-place Washington (67). Galindo paces Cal with 17 stolen bases while freshman speedster Erika Racklin has nabbed 15. Three other Bears have stolen at least nine bases apiece.

SCOUTING THE NO. 3 WILDCATS (37-9 OVERALL, 11-7 PAC-10): Arizona swept a three-game series against Washington this past weekend to put itself in contention for a shot at the Pac-10 title ... the Bears and Wildcats split their two earlier games this season. On April 2, Arizona shortstop Kristie Fox hit a walk-off grand slam to defeat Cal, 4-2. A day later, Cal catcher Haley Woods hit a three-run homer and collected four RBIs as the Bears won, 6-3 ... On May 10, center fielder Caitlin Lowe, the Pac-10 leader in batting (.513) and hits (80), was named as one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Player of the Year award. She joins Washington catcher Kristen Rivera as the only Pac-10 representatives ... among Pac-10 hitters, Lowe is second in on-base percentage (.616), stolen bases (26) and triples (4); third in runs (45) and fourth in total bases (96). She has also reached base to leadoff Arizona's last five contests ... primary starter Alicia Hollowell (26-7), the 2004 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, leads the conference in strikeouts (369) and opposing batting average (.145) ... Fox, who leads the Pac-10 with 63 RBIs, is hitting .427 with runners in scoring position and has 16 multi-RBI games to lead the Wildcats ... outfielder Autumn Champion (.388) is second in Pac-10 batting ... Arizona is coached by Mike Candrea (1,019-200, 20th year) ... the Bears are 18-57 all-time against the Wildcats but have captured two of the last three season series and defeated Arizona, 6-0, to win the 2002 Women's College World Series title ... for more information about Arizona softball, visit www.ArizonaAthletics.com.

SCOUTING THE SUN DEVILS (28-22 OVERALL, 3-15 PAC-10): Entering Thursday's game at Stanford, Arizona State has won just two of its last 15 games ... after a storied career, Sun Devils boss Linda Wells (561-408, ASU) will coach her final Pac-10 game - and perhaps final game, period - May 14. Following 16 seasons at ASU and a previous stint at Minnesota, Wells' 912 career wins rank seventh all-time in Division I. She has led the Sun Devils to 11 NCAA Regional appearances in 15 seasons, a run that includes trips to the Women's College World Series in 1999 and 2002 ... Woods hit two homers and accounted for all of Cal's RBIs as the Bears won the first leg of the season series, 4-2, April 1 in Tempe, Ariz. ... ASU defeated Cal, 1-0, in the championship game of the National Invitational Tournament March 13 ... freshman Mindy Cowles leads ASU in average (.315), runs (37), homers (10), RBIs (30) and slugging percentage (.658) ... in the circle junior righthander Desire Serrano (12-7, 2.29) leads the Sun Devils in wins but freshman lefthander Katie Burkhart (10-12, 1.46) has the top team ERA ... Burkhart's five saves pace the Pac-10 ... Cal is 49-30 all-time against the Sun Devils ... for more information on Arizona State softball, visit www.TheSunDevils.com.

OLYMPIC LEGACY: This weekend's games against Arizona State will be a reunion of sorts for four members of the 2004 Greek Olympic softball team. Ninemire was an assistant coach to head coach Wells on the inaugural Greek squad while James played left field and ASU assistant coach Stacey Farnworth caught. In addition, Candrea was the head coach of the U.S. team that captured the gold medal in Athens.

ETC: Cal leads the Pac-10 in wins (44), winning percentage (.815), at-bats (1,391) and plate appearances (1,647) ... nationally the Bears' fielding percentage is fourth, their team ERA (1.18) is seventh and their winning percentage (.815) is ninth ... Cal is 16-9 against ranked teams this season ... the Bears are 40-3 when leading after four innings and their only two losses when leading after five have come on walk-off homers ... Cal is 39-4 when scoring first, 27-0 when the opponent makes two or more errors and 24-0 when scoring five-plus runs ... the Bears longest win streak of 2005 was 13 games (2/26-3/12) ... Cal had 11 games cancelled this year due to rain.

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