The start of Cal’s road to the Women’s College World Series begins in familiar territory as for the fifth consecutive season the Golden Bears head to Tempe, Ariz. for the season-opening Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State. The opening slate starts with New Mexico on Friday at 2 p.m. PT, followed by a doubleheader Saturday morning with Creighton at 8 a.m. and Bradley at 10:30 a.m. The Bears close out the weekend against Portland State at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
The Bears finished 2013 at the NCAA Softball Regional in Ann Arbor, Mich. following the program’s 29th consecutive postseason berth (the longest active postseason streak in the NCAA). The program logged a 38-19 record and fifth-place finish in the Pac-12 on the heels of 2012’s Pac-12 Championship and Women’s College World Series run. Ace Jolene Henderson was named an NFCA second team All-American, and seven members of the 2013 squad earned All-Pac-12 laurels. Cal returns four of the seven: Cheyenne Cordes (second team), Danielle Henderson (honorable mention), Victoria Jones (honorable mention) and Vanessa Alvarez (All-Freshman honorable mention).
All Bases Covered
For complete coverage of this weekend’s games, follow @CalSoftball on Twitter for in-game updates, and access live stats via CalBears.com.
Who to Watch this Weekend
Cal’s battery took the biggest hit this season with the departure of standouts Jolene Henderson and Lindsey Ziegenhirt. Dynamic infielder Victoria Jones is a worthy fill-in for Ziegenhirt in her natural position behind the plate, and finished last season with 11 home runs, 32 runs and 30 RBI. Newcomer Alleah Laxamana may also get her chance to don the catcher’s mitt. Cal’s biggest needs exist in the circle, with five young pitchers aiming to fill Henderson’s shoes. Nisa Ontiveros returns for the Bears after pitching in 23 games last season and is supplemented by a trio of new pitchers, led by Aussie Stephanie Trzcinski and Oregon’s Katie Sutherland-Finch. The Bears return significant depth on defense with a number of options for both the infield and outfield.
The Bears are 33-9 in season openers since the softball program began in 1982. Last year, Cal lost to Kentucky 1-0 in nine innings to start the season. It was just the second time since 2000 that the Bears lost their season opener, and only the fifth time under head coach Diane Ninemire’s tenure.
Scouting New Mexico
New Mexico returns 11 letterwinners this season, including three veteran pitchers, while welcoming eight newcomers in five freshmen and three transfers. Leading the Lobos at the plate are Chelsea Anaya and Mariah Rimmer. In 2013, Anaya batted 367 batting average and 20 runs batted in through 27 games before she was sidelined with a broken collarbone, while Rimmer posted a .346 batting average and led the team with 34 runs scored. In the circle, southpaw Lauren Soles led New Mexico with a 3.23 ERA in 2013, and also led for innings pitched (132.1), starts (23) strikeouts (105) and opposing batting average (.241)
Bradley returns its entire starting lineup from 2013. Last season’s Braves featured five players who scored 20 or more runs for the first time in school history. Pitching for the Braves is Madeline Lynch-Crumrine, who logged a 3.08 ERA with a 14-16 record in 31 starts last year. Bradley’s top offensive weapon is Bailiegh Basham, with a .381 batting average. Alex Chandler led the team with six home runs.
Creighton’s lineup is highlighted by three senior pitchers, including Becca Changstrom, who ranks third in the Bluejays’ all-time strikeouts list with 606 in her career. Changstrom pitched her way to a 22-9 record with a 1.70 ERA in 2013. Liz Dike earned All-MVC Second Team honors after batting .348 last season, and senior Blair Lowe is the only other returner who batted over .300. The trio are among 14 letterwinners who return for the Jays, along with seven newcomers.
Scouting Portland State
Portland State enters 2014 as the defending Big Sky Conference Co-Regular Season Champions and winners of the inaugural Big Sky Softball Tournamen, but also face some uncertainty with a young squad (made up of 13 underclassmen, including seven rookies) and first-year head coach Barb Sherwood. Six starters return from a team that went 25-31 overall, including Brittany Hendrickson, who led the team in batting average (.350), home runs (9), and runs batted in (45) a year ago. The Vikings lost NFCA All-Region pitcher Anna Bertrand, and will now rely on Karyn Wright and Raya Johnson.
Cal heads to sunny SoCal from Feb. 14-16 for the Campbell/Cartier Classic hosted by San Diego State. The Bears will meet South Dakota (2 p.m.) and San Diego State (7 p.m.) on Friday, Texas State (4:30 p.m.) and Fullerton (7 p.m.) on Saturday, and finish out the tourney against St. Mary’s (11 a.m.) on Sunday.
In the Polls
The Bears check in at No. 24 in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA preseason rankings, while Pac-12 coaches predicted the Bears would finish seventh in the conference this season.
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:
The offseason saw the addition of seven newcomers to the Golden Bear program. Among the seven are three pitchers in Stephanie Trzcinski, Katie Sutherland-Finch and Taylor Cotton. A native of Adelaide, Australia Trzcinski joined the team at the start of the spring from down under. Sutherland-Finch, out of Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, Ore., was a MaxPreps High School All-American. Cal also inked four infielders, highlighted by 2013 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Kylie Reed, former competitive figure skater Alleah Laxamana and sophomores Taylor Garcia and Marissa Iwanylo, who joined the team as walk-ons following Cal’s try-outs in the fall.
In this season’s Pac-12 preseason coaches poll, league coaches have predicted a seventh-place finish for the Golden Bears. Arizona State and Washington are projected to finish first. In nine of the past 13 seasons, the Bears have finished higher than predicted in the preseason poll. Last season, Cal was predicted to claim the conference title but finished with a 10-14 conference record to tie for fifth. The Bears have claimed three Pac-12 (or Pac-10) titles – in 1987, 2005 and most recently, 2012.
1. Arizona State 60
3. Oregon 48
4. UCLA 42
5. Stanford 38
6. Arizona 28
7. California 18
8. Oregon State 15
Softball on the Small Screen
This season, the Pac-12 Networks will televise 16 California softball games, and all conference series except for Cal’s series against Oregon State feature at least one game televised. Those games are:
Saturday, March 15 at Stanford (doubleheader) – 12 & 2:30 p.m.
Friday, April 4 vs. ASU – 3 p.m.
Saturday, April 5 vs. ASU – 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 6 vs. ASU – 11 a.m.
Friday, April 11 vs. Arizona – 3 p.m.
Sunday, April 13 vs. Arizona – 12 p.m.
Thursday, April 17 at Oregon – 4 p.m.
Friday, April 18 at Oregon – 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 27 vs. UCLA – 12 p.m.
Thursday, May 1 at Utah – 6 p.m.
Friday, May 2 at Utah – 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 3 at Utah – 5 p.m.
Thursday, May 8 vs. UW – 3 p.m.
Friday, May 9 vs. UW – 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 10 vs. UW – 11:30 a.m.
Cal Inks No. 2 Recruiting Class for 2014-15
The future remains bright for the Golden Bears in 2014-15 with the nation’s second-best recruiting class according to studentsports.com, as four of Cal’s five commits are ranked in 2014’s Hot 100 Players list. Joining the Bears next season are Kristin Cullen (No. 37), Kristin Hoover, Jazmyn Jackson (8), Kobie Pettis (45) and Taurie Pogue (20). The highly touted class is a well-rounded signing for the Bears with pitcher Cullen, Florida’s District 15 Player of the Year and utility player Hoover, 2012 and 2013 MaxPreps All-American Jackson, infielder Pettis and shortstop/utility player Pogue.