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May 27, 2012
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BERKELEY -- California second baseman Jace Williams played her first collegiate season at Washington, and ever since coming to Berkeley before her sophomore year, she's made the Huskies pay for letting her go, hitting .285 against her former mates.
On Saturday, Williams -- along with fellow right-side infielder Valerie Arioto -- put another hurting on Washington, coming up with two first-inning homers to give the Bears a lead they would never relinquish in a 5-0 Game One win in the first ever Berkeley Super Regional.
"I'm just glad we won Game One of our Super Regional," Williams said. "Any time we can win a ballgame, I'm happy. They're a great squad, Kaitlin [Inglesby] is a great pitcher. We've got to come out tomorrow and do what we did today."
Arioto -- who took 13 walks during the Berkeley Regional last weekend -- didn't waste time getting Cal (55-5) on the board in the bottom of the first. With one out and Britt Vonk aboard with a perfect sit-and-spin bunt single, Arioto took the third pitch she saw from starter Kaitlin Inglesby not just over the wall, but over the right center field bleachers and into the parking lot for her 23rd home run of the season -- extending her program single-season record.
"I'm not really surprised they pitched to her, because in the Pac-12, she's had a number of teams pitch to her," said head coach Diane Ninemire. "We're glad they pitched to her. We like to have her have an opportunity to hit the ball, and she's a very patient hitter. She stays within herself. She'll take the walk if it's given to her, but if they're going to pitch to her, and she gets the pitch, you'll get what you saw tonight, and that's why she's one of the top players in the country."
Arioto went 2-for-3 on the day to up her season average to a sparkling .394.
"I was very glad to see some pitches," Arioto said. "This week, Jolene's been throwing a lot of live [batting practice] to me, so I could see pitches and stay in the groove of things. I just was hoping they'd pitch to me, so I could produce for my team. I knew if we could get any runs for Jolene, she was going to shut them down."
Not to be outdone, Williams stepped up after a groundout by Frani Echavarria and sent the third pitch she saw into the last row of those same bleachers to extend the lead to 3-0 with her seventh bomb of the year.
While Williams and Arioto were mashing, junior righty Jolene Henderson was dealing, racking up 12 strikeouts in a complete-game, four-hit, four-walk effort for her 35th win of the season.
"I was really, really excited," Henderson said. "Val came up to me, and I always tell Val that the bat's in your hands, because she has to hit for me, too. So, I was really proud of her. She just got on one early, got our team up and that's what we needed: just to get runs, so that we could keep producing."
The Bears needed just six hits to down Washington, winning for the fourth straight time against the Huskies, who took the final two of three from Cal in Seattle last season and were swept in Berkeley earlier this year.
"I thought we came out tonight ready to play," said head coach Diane Ninemire. "Jolene [Henderson] threw a tremendous game with 11 strikeouts. She really kept the batters off-balance. Britt Vonk started us off in the first inning with a beautiful bunt and then Val drove a ball way over the center field bleachers and then Jace came up and hit another home run, and then, we went to our short game."
After the two longballs, the Bears added two more in the bottom of the fourth. Inglesby hit left fielder Breana Kostreba in the left thigh to lead off the frame, before getting powerful Danielle Henderson to ground out to third. Inglesby then dealt a wild pitch low and in to catcher Victoria Jones on her third offering, allowing the speedy Elia Reid -- running for Kostreba -- to reach third. After putting Jones on with a walk, Inglesby surrendered a seed to shortstop by Cheyenne Cordes, allowing Reid to score as Cordes burned her way to first. The other Reid twin -- Jamia Reid -- then slapped a chopper over the circle to drive in the fifth run of the game with a groundout.
"We just started doing our short game," Ninemire said. "We executed exactly what we needed to do, and we got a couple more runs, and that was the game, right there."
Washington threatened to make the game interesting in the top of the fifth, when catcher Shawna Wright sent a hard short hopper to Danielle Hendrson at third. The true freshman tried to backhand the ball, but saw it skip off the heel of her mitt for an infield single. Henderson then issued a five-pitch walk to powerful Hooch Fagaly before Fagaly was erased on a fielder's choice soft liner up the middle by Kimberlee Souza.
With runners at first and third and one out, the elder Henderson dealt a five-pitch walk to Victoria Hayward for the powerful Nikia Williams, who came into the game slugging .589 with seven homers. On just the second pitch she saw, Nikia Williams grounded into a 1-2-3 double play to end the threat.
The Huskies loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the seventh on an Danielle Henderson error, a bloop single to left center from Hooch Fagaly and a free pass to Hayward before Nikia Williams flew out to right to end the game and put Cal one win away from advancing to its second straight Women's College World Series.
"One game at a time," said Jace Williams. "We're thinking about tomorrow, not trying to look ahead to the future. UW's a great team, and they're going to come out fired up tomorrow, so we need to focus on tomorrow's game."