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May 31, 2012
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After trailing for only the second time in this postseason -- and the first since the 3-2 loss to Arkansas in the Berkeley Regional -- the No. 1-seeded California softball team exploded for three runs in the bottom of the sixth to defeat LSU in the Bears' first game of the Women's College World Series.
Senior Frani Echavarria went 1-for-3 to fuel the effort, driving in three runs with a single, a sacrifice fly and a groundout, while junior hurler Jolene Henderson went the distance in the complete-game victory, allowing eight hits.
The Tigers (39-24) got out ahead of Cal (57-5) with back-to-back hits and a walk in the top of the second to load the bases for Morgan Russell, who sent a two-run single through the right side to stake LSU to a 2-0 lead.
The Bears pulled within one run in the bottom of the third, when sophomore designated player Britt Vonk reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second on a walk to slugger Valerie Arioto -- one of her three free passes on the day. Echavarria drove a single through the right side to score Vonk, cutting the Tigers' lead in half.
Cal evened things up in the bottom of the fifth, when speedy Jamia Reid singled and advanced to second on an errant throw from second baseman Allison Falcon. Vonk then dropped down a bunt to move Reid to third. With one out and Arioto on second after a walk and a stolen base, Echavarria delivered her first sacrifice fly of the season to drive in Reid.
The Bears exploded for three runs in the bottom of the sixth, with catcher Victoria Jones starting the rally with a up the middle, taking third when freshman shortstop Cheyenne Cordes doubled high off the left-field wall. Senior Elia Reid ran for Jones and then scored when her twin sister Jamia Reid slapped an infield single on a 1-0 offering from reliever Brittany Mack back to the box. Vonk drove in Cordes from third with a single to right, and a pitch to Arioto's thigh loaded the bases for Echavarria, who drove in her second RBI of the game with a groundout to first.
LSU made things interesting in the top of the seventh with a pinch-hit single to short off the bat of Cassie Trosclair. Trosclair advanced as far as third on consecutive groundouts, and then scored on an Ashley Langoni double to left center before Henderson got Juliana Santos out on a full-count groundout to senior Jace Williams at second.
The win earns the Bears a date with Oklahoma in the winner's bracket with a 6 p.m. CT tilt on Friday evening, pitting national Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts against Cal's two POY finalists in Henderson and Arioto. The Sooners beat South Florida 5-1 in the opening game of the WCWS. USF and LSU play Saturday in an elimination game.