They have advanced to the Super Regional all four seasons and made an appearance in the Women's College World Series last season. The group of Valerie Arioto, Frani Echavarria, Elia Reid, Jamia Reid and Jace Williams is one that will go down in the history books as one of the best classes in school history.
While all were major contributors to the Bears' four wins and regional title this past weekend in Berkeley, one member of this esteemed class was arguably the regional's Most Outstanding Player. Valerie Arioto, Cal's National Player of the Year finalist, is the obvious choice; however teams pitched around her, issuing 13 walks in 19 plate appearance to the Golden Bear standout over Cal's five games. Echavarria was the star for Cal in the Berkeley Regional, collecting nine hits in 17 plate appearances to record a .600 batting average.
It wasn't just the Riverside, Calif. native's contact that made the difference; it was her timely hitting that helped propel the Bears to the regional title. Echavarria came up three times with the bases loaded last weekend and collected a hit all three times. No hit was bigger than the senior's grand slam to put Cal up 10-2 in the fifth inning of Sunday's first elimination game against Arkansas. She finished that contest 4-for-4 with six RBI and two runs scored.
"It was my first one in life," Echavarria said after her grand slam. "It was pretty special. As soon as I hit it, I looked up and saw it go over and I think everyone saw me celebrating. "The bases were loaded and I just did what I could to help this team," the senior said. "I wasn't expecting it to go out. It was a great feeling."
Echavarria totaled five extra-base hits in the Golden Bears' five games last weekend, including four doubles and the grand slam.
After beginning the tournament ninth in the lineup, Echavarria was moved up to the cleanup spot behind Arioto for the final two games against Arkansas on Sunday. Her hot bat not only earned her a promotion in the lineup, but also provided some protection for Arioto, who hadn't seen a ball come over the plate her way all tournament long.
Echavarria delivered for the Bears in a big way last weekend and the fans in the outfield bleachers made sure to honor the senior with loud cheers each time she took her post in center field following a big hit.
"It was a great feeling and I was happy to see it, but I am just trying to help my team get the W," Echavarria said.
Let's hope the loud cheers and "Ws" continue this weekend as the Bears look to beat Washington and punch their ticket to Oklahoma City and the Women's College World Series.