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June 3, 2012

Jace Williams goes yard as Cal bounces Oregon from WCWS

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After scoring just five runs over their first two games in the Women's College World Series, the No. 1-seed California softball team rediscovered its fuse, and remembered just how to light it.

The Bears (58-6) bounced fellow Pac-12 representative Oregon to the tune of 6-3, sending teary-eyed starting pitcher Jessica Moore into the dugout with a three-run first-inning homer by senior second baseman Jace Williams and a two-run outburst in the second inning.

Cal scored two wins in Eugene earlier this season, crushing the Ducks 8-1 and 10-0 around a 1-0 loss to then-No. 14 Oregon, and used that history to get out of an offensive funk that had set in since the Bears landed in Oklahoma City.

Over the first two games of the WCWS, Cal had gone just 9-for-48 (.188) at the dish, but on Saturday, the Bears lit up the night with eight hits, including two from second-place hitter Britt Vonk.

Vonk got things rolling in the top of the first with a perfectly-placed infield single to the left side of the infield. After the powerful Valerie Arioto -- who came in without a single hit in the World Series - flied out to first on a 2-1 offering from Moore, the 5-foot-10 junior out of Sutter, Calif., dealt a five pitch walk to senior Frani Echavarria, who had been in a 2-for-9 funk since going 9-for-15 during the Berkeley Regional, setting the stage for Williams.

The senior out of Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon worked the count to 2-2 before hammering a three-run circuit shot over the center field wall for her eighth home run of the season, giving Cal the early lead.

In the top of the second, true freshman Danielle Henderson led off with a first-pitch single through the left side. After Victoria Jones and Cheyenne Cordes struck out, speedy Jamia Reid fouled off four straight pitches before shooting a single back up the middle. Reid and Henderson advanced on a passed ball with Vonk at the dish, before the Dutch National Team star sent a screaming double to right to knock in two.

Oregon gained new life in the bottom of the third when junior slugger Samantha Pappas sent Jolene Henderson's second offering rocketing over the center field fence for a line-drive solo shot, but the Bears came right back with a run of their own in the top of the fourth, thanks to a leadoff first-pitch home run by Jones.

Jolene Henderson -- who has thrown all but one third of an inning during the postseason -- got into a spot of trouble in the bottom of the sixth. Henderson gave up a leadoff single to Kelsey Chambers, who was erased on a fielder's choice grounder to short off the bat of sophomore Kailee Cuico. Henderson then plunked senior Christie Nieto and walked Alexa Peterson after getting out ahead 1-2 to load the bases.

Freshman designated player Sara Goodrum didn't waste much time against the suddenly-wild hurler, lacing the first pitch she saw into the left center field gap to plate two runs and cut the lead to 6-3.

Henderson, though, got a bit of help from Williams, who not only had a big day with the bat, but with the leather, as well.

Senior third baseman Lindsey Chambersfouled the first pitch from Henderson back, and then took a 54-mph change high. Chambers sent a looping liner to the right side, but the alert Williams turned her back to the plate and made an over-the-shoulder grab before firing home. The throw took a hard bounce off the backstop, with Peterson charging home. The ball, though, ricocheted back to Jones waiting at the dish, who tagged out Peterson to end Oregon's last viable scoring threat.

"I think the play of the game that just kind of showed the heart of this team was the play that Victoria made at home getting the runner out at home plate," said Cal head coach Diane Ninemire. "Jolene did a great job tonight. We had great timely hits tonight."

In the bottom of the seventh, Jolene Henderson got a quick ground out to first from Janie Takeda and then struck out Pappas and Kaylan Howard swinging for her eighth and ninth Ks of the evening.

Cal faces No. 2 Alabama (57-7) tomorrow at 12:30 PM Pacific, completing a semifinal field of each of the top four overall seeds, making it the first time that all four top seeds have advanced to the semifinals since 2005 - when the Bears , top four seeds, Cal will be No. 1 to face No. 2 Alabama (57-7), first time that top four seeds advance to semifinals since 2005. The Bears will have to win twice tomorrow to advance to the best-of-three title series.

-- For the fifth consecutive session, a new attendance record was set. Session 5 saw 9,310 fans in attendance, which is the largest single-session attendance in WCWS history. The previous record was set on Friday night with 9,209 fans in attendance.

-- Every session of the 2012 WCWS has had at least 8,000 fans. The current average attendance through five sessions is 8,681 fans, over 1,000 fans ahead of the record average pace of 7,515 set last year.

-- Cal pitcher Jolene Henderson retired the Ducks leadoff hitter in six of the seven innings. She improved to 38-3 on the season with the win.

-- The third inning home run for Oregon's Pappas was her second of the day. She also hit a solo home run to lead off the Ducks' victory over Tennessee earlier in the day.

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