May 6, 2010
BERKELEY - With a two-game winning streak thanks to an 8-0 mercy victory over then-No. 3 Arizona on May 2 and a 7-0 win at Saint Mary's on Saturday, the No. 15/13 California softball team heads south for three games at No. 6/5 UCLA (36-9/10-5 Pac-10). The Bears and Bruins will battle on Friday, May 7 at 7 p.m. with the next game on Saturday, May 8 scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. The two schools will close out the weekend on Sunday with a noon first pitch. The Southern California branch of the University of California holds a 76-21 all-time program record against Cal. The Bruins won the last meeting between the two squads, 2-1, on March 7, 2009. CalBears.com caught up with Cal softball head coach Diane Ninemire to get her thoughts on this upcoming weekend for the Bears.
CalBears.com: Does beating Saint Mary's on Wednesday give the team confidence heading down to UCLA this weekend?
Diane Ninemire: It's great to get another win, and we've got two wins in a row now. It's a great confidence builder to be swinging the bats well, our pitching looks good and our defense played well against Saint Mary's. This weekend, we need to come out swinging our bats and getting good pitching performances from Valerie Arioto and Jolene Henderson. We need to finish like we did against Arizona. If we play like we did Sunday, that will give us a lot of momentum heading into the last week of Pac-10s and the postseason.
CalBears.com: Against Saint Mary's, the team committed no errors. After errors had plagued the squad in recent weekends, is playing error-free ball something on which you have been focusing?
DN: Yes. We have spent a lot of time this week working on ground balls and just making plays. I thought we looked a lot better versus the Gaels. We just need to continue focusing on it at practice on Thursday.
CalBears.com: UCLA, just like Cal, is a perennial powerhouse. Last season, the Bears took two of three from their Southern California brethren, does the team looked poised to do that again?
DN: I hope that we can get at least two out of three, but we're going to go down there and play just one game at a time. We know all three games are going to be very tough games. We need to go in and play excellent defense and then we need to hit against them. We can play and beat any team in the country - we just have to play well.
CalBears.com: The team has had mixed results on the road - being swept at Oregon and then sweeping Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. After seven straight home games, how is the team feeling heading into its final Pac-10 Conference road trip?
DN: I think our team really enjoys being on the road. It's a lot more structured. I know they're getting fed and a good night's sleep. We practice in the mornings and stretch as a team. I think the team responds to the structure. Against Arizona State, we had a strict schedule, and we did very well against them.
CalBears.com: The Pac-10 is one of the most, if not the absolute top, conference in the country for softball. How does playing conference opponents prepare your team for the postseason?
DN: The Pac-10 is the best conference in the country. There's not going to be another nonconference opponent out there that we're going to face that is tougher than a conference team. Playing in our conference, it really prepares us for anyone we could face in the NCAA Tournament. I think that gives us an edge because we have that confidence that we can play against anybody.