No. 3 Softball Falls To No. 8 California 3-2 In Pac-10 Opener

March 29, 2002

BERKELEY, Calif. - In a series where the last eight games have been decided by three runs or less, Friday's conference opener between cross-bay rivals No. 3 Stanford and No. 8 California continued that trend.

No. 3 Stanford (27-4, 0-1 Pac-10) dropped a 3-2 decision to No. 8 California (34-10, 1-0 Pac-10) in Berkeley for its second straight loss. The Cardinal took three out of four against the Golden Bears in 2001, including a 1-0 win at the College World Series.

Senior Jessica Mendoza (Camarillo, Calif.) got the Cardinal offense going in the top of the first inning, blasting the first pitch she saw from Cal starter Jocelyn Forest over the centerfield fence for her ninth home run of the season. Stanford has now scored at least one run in the first inning in 13 of its last 14 contests.

The Golden Bears, who earned their first win in a conference home opener since the 1997 season, threatened to take the lead in the home half of the fifth, but came up empty. After loading the bases with just one out, Cal's Courtney Scott was thrown out at home by Stanford shortstop Robin Walker (La Palma, Calif.) on a fielder's choice by Jessica Vernaglia. Leadoff hitter Kaleo Eldredge followed with a blistering line drive that was snagged by Walker to end the inning.

However, the Golden Bears would break through for three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-1 lead. A leadoff walk, single and intentional walk to Veronica Nelson loaded the bases with one out for Chelsea Spencer, who roped a bases-clearing double to left-center. Spencer would eventually wind up on third base on the play but was left stranded after the next two hitters struck out.

The Cardinal would tally an additional run in the top of the seventh, as Cassi Brangham's (Clovis, Calif.) RBI double to center plated freshman Heather Shook (Whittier, Calif.), pinch running for sophomore Jessica Allister (Nacogdoches, Texas), who led off with a double. Cal's Forest struck out the next three Cardinal batters to secure the victory with the tying run on third.

Stanford starter Tori Nyberg (Belmont, Calif.) pitched effectively for the Cardinal in the loss, scattering five hits while striking out six. The Cardinal junior falls to 17-2 on the year, while Forest improves to 15-6 after fanning 12 in a complete-game, five-hit effort.

Stanford and California square off again tomorrow afternoon in a doubleheader at Boyd & Jills Smith Family Stadium, scheduled for 2 p.m. The two teams will not meet again this season.

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