BERKELEY -- California welcomes Arizona State to Levine-Fricke Field this weekend in the Golden Bears’ first home Pac-12 series of 2014. The series kicks off Friday at 3 p.m. and continues Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.
ALL BASES COVERED All three games in this weekend’s series against Arizona State will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks. For more coverage of the game, follow @CalSoftball on Twitter for in-game updates. Live stats will be available at CalBears.com
SCOUTING ARIZONA STATE The Sun Devils have quickly proven to be one of the strongest teams in both the nation and the Pac-12, ranking in the top three in the conference in nearly every offensive and defensive category. Leading ASU’s .337 team batting average with a .437 is Amber Freeman, who also owns a team-leading .680 slugging percentage from seven home runs. Aside from Freeman, eight Sun Devils are batting .300 or better, highlighted by eight homers from Cheyenne Coyle, 38 runs from Alix Johnson and 34 RBI from Haley Steele. Dallas Escobedo has been ASU’s longtime ace, and this season she brings with her a 1.73 ERA and 14-5 record with 205 strikeouts in nearly 130 innings. Mackenzie Popsecue is also strong in the circle and holds a 16-1 record and 1.41 ERA in 94 innings. The Arizona State pitching staff has allowed just 13 home runs total.
LAST TIME OUT Cal met Pacific for a rematch of their Jack in the Box Spring Fling game in Hawaii earlier in March, and the Bears once again claimed victory over the Tigers. The Blue and Gold tallied 14 hits to overpower Pacific 9-0 in five innings after scoring every single run at the top of the fourth inning. It was Cal’s second shutout win of 2014, and both shutouts came at the helm of Stephanie Trzcinski in the circle.
WHO TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND Cal’s batting average has improved steadily over the past several weeks, with the Bears now batting .313 on the season. Three players sit above the .400 mark, with Cheyenne Cordes leading with a .438 average on top of a team-leading nine doubles, 28 RBI and .798 slugging percentage. Kylie Reed is first on the team and second in the Pac-12 overall for hits with 47 total, plus 19 runs score, and Alex Robben, who has entered the lineup 11 times this season, is batting .412. Breana Kostreba and Danielle Henderson also sit far above .300, with Henderson leading the team in long balls with nine on the season. The Golden Bear pitching staff is also starting to exhibit more consistency, led by Stephanie Trzcinski’s (5-3) 2.35 ERA and just 17 runs allowed in nearly 51 innings pitched. Nisa Ontiveros is the wins leader in the circle with a 9-5 record and a 3.17 ERA in 75 innings of work, while Katie Sutherland-Finch has also worked her way up to a 6-3 record and 4.09 ERA in 63.1 innings with 47 strikeouts.
DUE UP The Bears will stay in the Bay Area for five more games, starting with a midweek matchup in Moraga with a rematch vs. St. Mary’s on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Cal’s weekend slate will feature conference foe Arizona at home on Levine-Fricke Field.
This season, Cal’s starting core of juniors -- Cheyenne Cordes, Danielle Henderson and Breana Kostreba -- have combined for a whopping 41 of Cal’s 72 extra-base hits, or roughly 57 percent. Based on extra-base hits alone (not counting singles), the junior class is responsible for 20 percent of Cal’s total bases in 2014.
SENIORS EARN THEIR STARTS Prior to this season, Victoria Jones was the only Golden Bear to regularly start nearly every game in her four-year career. But 2014 has seen head coach Diane Ninemire lean heavily on her veterans, with each of the five seniors earning multiple starts this season. The most notable difference has been with LaRisa Jones, who started just five games prior to her senior season and has now started nearly every game in left field for the Bears. Alex Robben is also finding success. After tallying just five hits in her first two seasons with the Bears, she has already registered seven this season, including both her first and second career doubles.
THUNDER FROM DOWN UNDER Freshman Stephanie Trzcinski, who just joined the Bears in January, is already turning heads for her pitching performances in the circle. Despite getting off to an 0-3 start, Trzcinski has since steadily improved and threw her first collegiate no-hitter against Princeton. It was the first California no-hitter since Jolene Henderson’s no-no against Valparaiso at the 2013 NCAA Ann Arbor Regional. Trzcinski also owns both of Cal’s shutout wins and leads the team in ERA.
UH OH, OCHO Henderson has become a household name to collegiate softball fans in the country, thanks in part to former Cal ace Jolene Henderson, the winningest pitcher in Golden Bear history. But also making waves in the program record books is little sis Danielle Henderson, who currently ranks fifth for career home runs with 36. She is just six long balls away from tying 2013 graduate and Team USA player Lindsey Ziegenhirt’s 42, and 19 away from tying home run leader Veronica Nelson.
CHEYENNE-ING STAR Leadoff batter Cheyenne Cordes has improved every single year for the Bears, and this year has been no different. Cordes currently leads the team in a myriad of categories, including batting average (.438), doubles (9) and runs scored (31). The junior held a team leading 14-game hit streak until Cal’s recent game against Pacific.
TWEET, LIKE, REPEAT Join the Bears in the social media realm for a behind-the-scenes look at the team all season long. Follow along with in-game scoring updates, exclusive photos, interviews and more at: Facebook: www.Facebook.com/CalSoftball Twitter: @CalSoftball Instagram: @CalSoftball YouTube: www.YouTube.com/CalSoftball