May 19, 2006
IOWA CITY, Iowa - An RBI single from senior Haley Woods in the first inning gave the California softball team all the runs it needed, as the Bears opened NCAA Tournament play with a 1-0 victory over Illinois State on Pearl Field in Iowa City, Iowa. Senior Kristina Thorson struck out 14 in her 33rd win of the season, helping Cal, the top seed in the Iowa City Regional, advance to a game against Nebraska, the region's second seed. The Bears will face Nebraska at 2 p.m. CDT Saturday.
Cal improved to 45-12, while the Redbirds fell to 37-15 in front of a crowd of 978.
Junior Alex Sutton led off the first inning with a single to left field. She advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior Lindsay James. Sutton scored when Woods ripped a single up the middle.
"I thought tonight was a tremendous game by two great teams with two good pitchers," Cal head coach Diane Ninemire said. "Illinois State came out with a lot of hustle and they were very prepared to play tonight. My team was very focused the first inning. I really loved the way we came out and scored the first run."
Thorson's seven-inning shutout of the Redbirds capped a streak of 27 consecutive scoreless innings for the Cal senior, dating back to the fifth inning against UCLA on May 11. With her 33rd win of the season, Thorson is now tied for Cal's single-season win record with Hall of Famer Michele Granger, who won 33 games in 1991.
Friday was only the fourth meeting between Cal and Illinois State. The teams hadn't met since 2003 when Cal won 11-0 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Georgia. That game featured the second career home run by Woods - who was then a freshman.
Friday's game between Cal and Illinois State started about 45 minutes later than scheduled - at 7:45 p.m. CDT - after the Iowa-Nebraska game went to 10 innings. In the first game of the Iowa City Regional, Nebraska's Jamie Waldecker delivered a clutch two-out single down the left field line in the bottom of the tenth inning that scored Katie Linke to give the Cornhuskers a 1-0 win. With the win, the Huskers improved to 43-10 on the season, while Iowa fell to 39-20 overall.
Cal last faced Nebraska in the 2004 Regional hosted by the Corn Huskers. The Bears advanced out of that region after sweeping the competition with four straight wins - 4-0 over Maine, 2-1 against Mississippi State and two straight 2-0 wins over Nebraska. Those are Cal's only two meetings with the Huskers in postseason play. Nebraska leads the all-time series 14-10.