A CalBears.com Blog by Jace Williams
Feb. 20, 2012 - "Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee"
Muhammad Ali is without a doubt the greatest fighter to ever live. I have heard a million different references regarding Ali but I never truly understood what he stood for until I watched the film "Facing Ali" (which I highly recommend, by the way). The past century has produced some of the greatest athletes of all time, including Michael Jordan, Jerry Rice, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods just to name a few,` but Ali was different. By the time the credits started rolling I was convinced that Ali was completely out of his mind, but I found the whole story to be quite ironic because EVERY opponent he ever faced loved him. Ali was no angel. He did and said some CRAZY AND ABSURD things both inside and outside of the ring but in the end, none of that mattered. Muhammad Ali started a revolution, and that's the theme I am going to go with in regard to Cal softball.
Those who have watched this team play live, in person, understand that something truly magical is happening here. I am not kidding when I say that this team is destined for greatness. In my eyes "destined for greatness" means a few different things, and quite frankly, I do not think our win-loss record is one of them. It's about the process, our attitude, what we do on and off the field when no one is watching, how we treat each other, the effort we put forth in the classroom, and the people we have become on that sunny day in May when we throw our graduation caps in the air. When it is all said and done, this team will be remembered not only as the best Cal softball team to ever wear the uniform but one of the best most well-rounded sports teams to ever wear a Cal uniform, and that my friends is revolutionary.
At first, I was not overly thrilled with being ranked in the top three. Teams that upset a #1 ranked team include that win in their highlight film, and trust me NO ONE wants to be featured in another team's highlight film. Every team you face will come at you with "their best stuff" and that alone will put a lot of pressure on a team. I can tell you now that MY ATTITUDE HAS CHANGED. I love being ranked #1. I love and embrace the fact that every time we take the field someone is trying to whoop our caboose. That's the thing with this team, WE LOVE COMPETING. We constantly compete with each other, who can down the most breadsticks at Olive Garden (Nikki Owens), who is going to check in first at the airport (twins), who is going to sing the loudest in the back of the bus (Valerie Arioto) and who is going to spend the most time studying (Taylor vs. Mary), and the list goes on. Competing only makes us stronger. Being ranked #1 means nothing in February, it doesn't mean anything in March, April or May either, being ranked NUMBER ONE only matters on June 7, 2012.
Special shout-out to all the fans who traveled with us to VEGA$ (I'm sure being in VEGA$ had nothing to do with it), but we traveled DEEP, and we fed off your continuous support and energy. Y'all were crazy in that LSU game, what a remarkable cheering battle accompanied by a remarkable win over our second SEC team of the year.
I'm going to leave you all on this note: "It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. Once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen." -MUHAMMAD ALI
Feb. 1, 2012 - V-E-R-S-A-T-I-L-I-T-Y
I felt today would be a great day to write my first official "Hot Corner" entry of the season. I've been leaving you guys hanging, and for good reason. Although rankings mean nothing and should only be used as a "fire accelerant" it was still nice to see our team nab the No. 3 spot to start the season! It doesn't matter where you start it's where you finish, but starting at No.3 three is fine with me.
We kick off our 2012 campaign against No. 9 Tennessee so anyone who wants to ditch work or any other responsibilities, you may have to come cheer us on! It will be greatly appreciated. I know how loud you guys are! Evidence: Lexington, Kentucky when y'all were heavily outnumbered. Mamma Reid and the rest of the "Bearettes" could be heard above all chanting, "Boom boom pow look at Cal now!" I also want to give Mamma Henderson a special shout out for bringing smiles to all our faces, post Louisville tornado drama, with special postseason t-shirts.
Those of you who read the "Hot Corner" last year already know how I like to get off topic, so I want to apologize ahead of time. I am going to give you guys what you want to read so here it goes. Last year I let you guys in on who was playing where at practice, so I will do the same this year and tickle your taste buds a little bit.
Just so you know a solidified line-up is still far from complete. Everyone on this roster is fighting for a starting position, and nothing is set in stone. This team, unlike others in the past, is extremely deep. I like to be honest when I blog so I will tell you right now Coach Ninemire is in a very tough spot. Having so many options is a blessing in disguise, but I would hate to be in her position to tell you the truth.
It is our job to make her decision as tough as possible, and I can tell you right now that it gets tougher every day. This team is extremely hungry and full of work horses so I would not be surprised to see different line-ups out there well into the season. The strength and conditioning staff commented that our team was one of the few teams that put in a ton of work during RRR week and finals week so you can see we never stop working.
This year's team is extremely versatile and as a result many players were playing more than two positions at practice. We all met individually with Coach Ninemire and Coach Lohmann last week to discuss our individual and team goals for the season. The majority of us left their office with two positions to focus on moving forward. Again, what a great situation to be in as a coach, you have so many versatile players on your roster that you have to sit them down and narrow their focus. GO BEARS.
So now, the moment you have all been waiting for...where could people be playing this spring? I originally had these in no particular order, but my editor suggested putting them in alphabetical order to avoid any confusion. I want to reiterate that these are possibilities and in no way a solidified line-up. And remember, it's alphabetical.
Pitchers: Valerie Arioto, Arianna Erceg, Jolene Henderson, Nikki Owens
Catchers: Victoria Jones, Taylor Vincent, Lindsey Ziegenhirt
First Base: Valerie Arioto, Danielle Henderson, Jolene Henderson, Alex Robben
Second Base: Cheyenne Cordes, Victoria Jones, Mary Lee, Britt Vonk, Jace Williams
Third Base: Danielle Henderson, Breana Kostreba, Jace Williams
Shortstop: Cheyenne Cordes, Victoria Jones, Britt Vonk
Left Field: LaRisa Jones, Jamia Reid
Center: Cheyenne Cordes, Frani Echavarria, Jamia Reid
Right: Ashley Decker, Breana Kostreba, Elia Reid
The outfielders are crazy, in a good way of course. They switch around and play everywhere out there. It's hard to tell what the outfield or any position is going to look like come gameday.
The awesome part about this whole thing is how uncertain it all is. As of right now no one, not even Coach, knows what the line-up versus Tennessee is going to look like, and we wouldn't have it any other way. We talk offense next week...GET FIRED UP CAL FANS!
Aug. 14, 2011 - This Blog is Long Overdue...
I did not realize how much the fans enjoyed my Hot Corner blog until I stopped writing them and had people coming up to me in Louisville telling me I need to hit the computer and continue my blog. The funny thing is that I don't enjoy writing or blogging, BUT I do like keeping all of you up to date, and I love giving my opinion and analysis on things. So blogging is actually a good thing for me! Unfortunately, I came down with a severe case of post-season writing laziness and let everyone down towards the end of the season. I know last season was last season and now we should all be thinking about the up and coming 2012 season, but I wanted to break down my opinion on those last three weeks of our incredible 2011 season.
Well, first things first! We want to thank all the fans who traveled with us all over the country as we pursued our goal of reaching the College World Series! We might have had the smallest fan base of any team the entire journey, but we were definitely the loudest and the rowdiest. It was quite the adventure, to say the least! We saw everything from haunted hotels, Coach Ninemire dressing up like a ghost, Churchill Downs, tornado storms and Coach Tammy Lohmann doing a break dance solo in OKC.
We went as a team to see where the Kentucky Derby takes place, and of course, Lady Luck was on our side because Frani, Amy, and myself all won eight bucks when we picked a winner in the fourth race. We all went with horse #7 because we were seeded seventh in the tournament, so we felt it would be appropriate. WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER.
The drama started in Louisville when Jamia Reid went down in left field. I don't know about all of you, but that stressed the heck out of me. We were unsure if she was going to be able to finish the rest of the Regional, let alone the rest of our season. On the one hand, we did not want her to risk further injury. But on the other hand, missing Jamia in the line-up could have catastrophic results. We were set to face a tough Louisville team without our lead-off hitter, but Jamia knew she had to play so Coach placed her in the DP spot. We swept the Regional tournament, but knew the rest of the journey was not going to be peaches and cream.
A curve ball was thrown our way when we were notified that Michigan had been upset by Kentucky, and we were no longer heading back to California to prepare for what we thought was going to be a power-heavy Michigan squad. Instead, the coaching staff made the executive decision to stay in Kentucky and use Louisville's facilities to prepare for our Super Regional match up with a scrappy, never say die Kentucky squad.
I don't know about you guys but tornado storms and warnings are not something a California girl deals with daily. Unless you were there, you have no idea how petrified some of us were of the tornado storms that were tearing through the country right when we happened to be in the area, how convenient! For the rest of my life, I will remember watching the Weather Channel and waiting with anticipation as the slow rolling red tornado line approached Louisville. When we were in the middle of the storm, the entire sky was black and all you could see were large objects flying through the streets. I am sorry, but I have never been in this sort of storm before, so I was freaking out. Luckily, the locals reassured us that we were going to survive! We loaded the bus up the morning after the storm, ready to get the heck out of Louisville, and headed to our third hotel of the trip. Good ole' Lexington, Kentucky, where the best horse breeders in the world reside, it was quite a change from Louisville, to say the least.
For all of you who remember the 2010 Super Regional at Georgia, you know that SEC schools love to come out and support their teams. Those Georgia Bulldog fans were absolutely brutal so all those who participated in that Super Regional gave the freshman a little heads up on what to expect from the fans. I can honestly say that the Kentucky fans were awesome, respectful and nice, so we really appreciated that. We arrived at the field over two hours early and hundreds and hundreds of fans were already lined up to get in. I have never seen so many blue shirts in my life, all you could see was Kentucky blue. Those Cal fans who made the trip to Lexington know how outnumbered we were. In our minds we had to keep telling ourselves that we were the home team and that we had a job to do.
All three Super Regional games were not without drama. Our offense came out flat in game one but thanks to Frani's second collegiate home run and a flawless performance by Jolene in the circle, we ran away with game one. A win is a win in the post season, but we knew we needed to come out much stronger in game two if we wanted to prevent Jolene from throwing an extra game. Everything felt off in game two. Jolene was taken out pretty early on because the game was not looking very good for us. You never want to give up but when your number one stud pony is worn by the weather you need to cut your losses. Jolene is the definition of a team player so when she was forced to go sit in the air-conditioned locker room while her team was out on the field battling, it did not sit well with her. We all knew she needed rest and needed to get out of the heat, but she did not want to leave the dugout! So after we forced her into the locker room, we began to refocus our thoughts, as well. The snowball effect was what we ultimately wanted to avoid after our game two loss, we put ourselves in a bad position and we did not want to make matters worse.
We headed back into the locker room and completely let game two go. Jolene felt good, and I could just tell when I looked around that we were going to come out in game three and leave it all on the field. There was absolutely no way we were going to lose that game, and as expected, Jolene came out and threw lights out, and our offense decided to come alive, and we ran away with game three. The feeling I had after that last out was sheer bliss, I don't even know how to describe it. Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to play in the College World Series, and my dream had just come true! All the hard work we had put in the entire season had paid off. The World Series deserves its own blog, so I am going to leave you guys with this and work on the next one soon, I PROMISE!
May 3, 2011 - Clutch Offense + "Crazy" Inhuman Jolene = UCLA Sweep
I feel like starting this blog off with a little deja vu! I'm currently at my community pool, it is 2 p.m. on a Monday, and it is 80 degrees, sound a little familiar? I love teasing all of you, which is why I did not write a blog last week after our incredible series win over rival Stanford. My 20-page final paper was due that Monday and then a final exam on Tuesday managed to take precedence over "The Hot Corner." Personally, I would have much rather talked about triumphs on the softball field but, unfortunately, I have this little thing called a conscience or Coach Ninemire. Either way, that is why I am committing some double trouble this week and combining two blogs in one. I know that the Stanford series seems eons ago, especially after a UCLA sweep this weekend, but I feel that the Stanford series got us fired up and, more importantly, made us realize how much potential this team has!
Our team refuses to be written off...all the hype about other conferences being better and all this and all that, well none of it actually means anything! We were expected to finish close to last in conference play and no one expected us to be where we are currently! I attribute our recent success to great pitching, timely hitting, calling great games behind the plate and more production from everyone on the team, in all aspects of the game. The scary thing is that I think we are still much better than we are currently showing.
Our Achilles' heel, at this point in time, is our BASE RUNNING!! We made numerous mistakes on the base paths over the past two weekends, including missed signals. This cannot happen from this point forward. Base running is not fun to practice, that's no secret. I think we really need to get back to the basics and take ownership in how we work on it in practice. ONLY YOU as a player are in control of how much effort you put forth, we will be grinding it out from here on out, I can guarantee you that! This team loves a challenge, and there are a lot of fighters on this roster who are willing to do whatever it takes to win!!!
Let's look at Jordan Wallace, as an example. She has been hit at the plate 16 times and still refuses to back off the plate. She knows how to make things happen for the team and finds a way to start rallies. I can sit here and write about all the ways this team shows fight, including our come from behind win over UCLA on Sunday! The entire bench was fired up and our energy was high. I will say that the Sunday game against UCLA was one of the most intense and nerve-racking games I have ever played!
I also want to give the outfielders some credit for doing all of the little things right this weekend. Any ball that went to the outfield, in this series, was immediately cut off or played quick off the wall. Those are the little things that often go unnoticed, and I thought all three of them had a great defensive weekend.
Another person who often goes unnoticed is Lindsey Ziegenhirt! I want everyone to know that she is one of the few catchers in the ENTIRE country who calls her own game. That is very impressive and she deserves a shout out for that because she has been calling some absolutely AWESOME games for Jolene. This girl takes an absolute beating every single weekend, and she doesn't get enough credit for her mastermind abilities behind the plate.
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene...what a monster!! We feed off her energy and confidence; this girl is so competitive it's scary. She looks so sweet and is so incredibly modest, but this girl is truly crazy. A good crazy that is; one that elevates everyone's play around her. Her mental game is unmatched and untouched. She kept the ball in the park, and that was the difference and the reason we swept a power heavy team like UCLA! UCLA is a great ball club and the well-deserving defending national champion. You have to respect tradition and I feel that this weekend's sweep was monumental for this program. It had not been done since 1998!!
Jamia Reid had, in my opinion, the most dominating display of offense that I have ever seen at this level. Let's take a look at her career stats for a moment. Her freshman year, she had 44 strikeouts which was cut nearly in half to 25 last year. To date, amongst the starters, she has the lowest amount of strikeouts with 11. That alone is pretty impressive. She has cut her strikeouts in half every season in the most dominating conference in the country. She ended last season with 78 hits and is well on her way to bettering that statistic this season WOWZERS. Going 9-for-11 against a national powerhouse like UCLA is stunning, and it was very fitting for her to have the walk-off single to secure the sweep in Sunday's duel. Her twin sister, Elia Reid, had an amazing weekend, as well, which included an awesome catch in right field and a booming grand slam amongst other clutch hits. She did her job and got on base all weekend, you can't ask for much more.
Moving forward, we need to dig deep as a team and work our booties off the next few weeks in preparation for Oregon State, Arizona and the postseason. We have a lot of work and studying to do. We are in RRR week so we all have review sessions and many late nights ahead of us in preparation for finals.
On another note, "Senior Day" was on Sunday but we were "senior less," which is good and bad. Good in a sense that we didn't have an emotional breakdown as we said farewell to seniors but "bad" in a sense that we will never play another game at home this season! We do not have a "true" senior but we do have a red shirt senior in Valerie Arioto, who we miss DEARLY on the field. I am not the only redshirt player on the team anymore which is awesome because I will no longer be the lone 23-year-old grandma on the team next season, thank you Valerie for joining the "Grandma Bear" club.
The road warriors are officially back! We want to thank everyone who ever came to a game and supported us this season! You guys make the atmosphere fun and exciting and we are so grateful for all the support you all have shown us. "What time is it?" BBQ time! A shout out and a very hearty thank you to LaRisa Jones' family for a delicious dinner celebrating our sweep! We intend on making all of our fans proud this weekend as we head to Corvallis! GO BEARS!
April 20, 2011 - The Bear Who Had Nine Lives!
What a spectacular weekend....our first sweep of the Pac-10 season. I told you guys after ASU that we were going to work our tails off and impress all of you the next time we played at home. Stud pitching performances by both Arianna Erceg and Jolene Henderson combined with hot bats make a pretty nasty concoction.
First up, here are some fun photos for you:
Jolene Henderson received her third Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week Award!! Yes, this is another recording; she was also named the National Player of the Week! That is a big-time award and a big-time accomplishment for Jolene and our program. Jolene is extremely modest and deemed the prestigious honor a "team award" which she sums up to great defense and offense behind her. Another shout-out goes to "the one who is often forgotten about behind the dish," Lindsey Ziegenhirt, on her Pac-10 Player of the Week honor. Three Pac-10 wins, three rewards and me being here to write this blog, all great accomplishments!
This blog is titled "The Bear Who Had Nine Lives" for a reason. If you were at Saturday's game, you will understand why I feel lucky to be here. In my 14 years of playing this sport, I have NEVER had a ball hit at my head so hard. That hit put the word "HOT" in the hot corner, literally. The batter sat on a change-up (that her coach called out to her before the ball was pitched) and absolutely obliterated the ball right at my head. Fortunately, I grew up playing volleyball so my reaction time is faster than your average third baseman and for good reason.
I remember everything about this play, I saw the ball coming at my head in slow motion but the crazy thing was that I could only react in slow motion. A "Matrix" type move allowed me to get out of destructions path and somehow allowed me to get a glove on the ball. The velocity of the ball knocked me down after getting a glove on it and due to my weird personality and probably shock, I laughed. Nothing about that play was funny and I definitely lost one of my nine lives. Sunday was another scary day at the hot corner, but this time I caught it. The ball was hit extremely hard but not nearly as hard as the previous game so I caught this one. All I could hear was Jolene's dad in the stands yell "welcome to the hot corner." I'm happy I survived the weekend, and I am also happy the title of my blog was solidified.
A major piece to the puzzle this weekend was our offense. Our discipline at the plate was what really stuck out for me. We were patient and actually looked like we had a plan up there. We swung at good pitches and primarily worked in hitters counts for the majority of the weekend. For the most part we avoided Jessica Moore's rise ball and hit the ball where it was pitched.
Jamia Reid had an amazing day at the plate in Friday's duel going 3-for-4 while Britt Vonk caught my eye going 3-for-3 in Sunday's battle. It is always nice being the third hitter in the line-up and constantly seeing someone on base. All season both Jamia and Britt have done an excellent job of reaching base and it really makes my job more enjoyable. I am much more successful as a hitter when I see runners on base in front of me. Not only did our offense show up this weekend but our defense did, as well. Besides two minor blunders in the infield (one of which was my fault) we played flawlessly!
My "Golden Glove" award this weekend would have to go to Frani Echavarria, without hesitation! Frani threw an absolute laser into second base and caught the runner trying to turn a hit to the wall into a double. Very clutch play and a big momentum swinger. Lindsey Ziegenhirt claims the "Offensive Player" of the weekend with a pair of bombs and numerous clutch go-ahead RBIs.
This weekend we brought the complete package to Levine-Fricke. Hopefully our bats and defense are here to stay for the remainder of the season. The majority of the girls on the team are coming up to the field and putting in a lot of extra work and their extra efforts are starting to pay off. Every team who makes it to the post-season has talent and talent can only take you so far. Success at the end of the year finds the teams who can put it all together at the right time. Peaking at the right time and avoiding injuries are crucial for a late final surge.
The ball is rolling and now we need the snowball effect to take place. There are no breaks in the Pac-10 Conference, and we have some unfinished business to attend to with Stanford. They took the series from us last year with a 12-inning heartbreaker. It will be another dog fight so I suggest everyone who reads my blog to come and support us.
We need a large home field advantage to come out and be loud for us on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. You guys are a huge piece of the puzzle that we will need behind us for the rest of the season. Nothing beats loyal supporters and like I have said numerous times before it is much more fun playing in front of a large upbeat crowd than a group of crickets so come out and get a little crazy with us!
April 14, 2011 - Burr It's Cold Out Here...
First and foremost, it was my first time back in Seattle since I had departed in October of 2008. Nothing had changed, besides a few upgrades that had been made to the field; including the addition of lights, a new outfield wall and some turf that had been placed on the outskirts of the infield foul lines and behind home plate. The weather was still the way I had remembered it: gusty, moist and unforgiving. I will say that Friday's night game was the warmest I have ever felt while playing on that field. Seattle must have known I was coming!! Long sleeves were not necessary and the sun was actually shining.
We stayed in a hotel located in downtown Seattle, and it definitely solidified my feelings of never wanting to be a city dweller. I think what really confirmed my negative feelings about city dwelling was trying to find a decent place to eat on a Friday and Saturday night with under an hour wait - it was so frustrating. I also forgot how rugged and rolling the terrain was in Seattle, just walking around felt like a StairMaster workout!
I will say that the breakfast provided at the hotel was superb, and that was just what we needed to kick start the beginning of our series versus Washington. I am going to be truthful with you all and let you know that I have never felt so anxious before a game. I had butterflies (which I never get) and was fiddling my thumbs on the bus ride over to campus, which I never do. I cannot pinpoint my exact emotional state, but I can tell you I was fired up. A roller coaster of emotions hit me as soon as I stepped off the bus, and I kept asking myself what the heck was wrong with me? Once we started to warm up, I felt back to normal, though that walk over from the bus felt like eternity.
It was nice seeing old familiar faces, but in the back of my mind, all I could think of was the "prize." We came out aggressive and with a vengeance Friday night. In her first at bat of the game, Britt Vonk hit her first home run of the season, so that kick started the hitting spree that would follow for the duration of the game. We were very patient at the plate, far more patient than I had seen us be in awhile. We swung at pitches we were looking to hit and laid off the pitches the opposing pitcher wanted us to hit. We played flawless defense in the field and Jolene Henderson dominated in the circle.
Although we did not face Washington's ace, I felt that that game was ours no matter who was pitching on the other side. All cylinders were firing and nothing was stopping us Friday night. We ended the game in five innings before the weather took a chilly turn as the sun set. We ended the game with three homeruns - one each from Britt Vonk, Lindsey Ziegenhirt and Jordan Wallace. I capped my night off with a quick 30-minute cardio session. The best part about my cardio session was the fact that it was dead silent, and I was the only one in the hotel workout room. I love reflecting on the day's game in peace and solitude, it is very soothing for me. Saturday was going to be a battle so I went to bed thinking "happy thoughts."
My thoughts before I went to bed Friday night could not have been anymore true because Saturday was a dogfight, and I knew it was going to be that way. Washington threw its ace who threw, in my opinion, fireballs. She was the fastest pitcher we had faced all season so our timing was a little off in our first few at bats. Jolene was throwing lights out throughout the entire game, and it was really a shame that we couldn't put more than one run on the board for her. To beat a team like Washington, you need to play flawless defense (which we did not do), pitch tough, limit mental errors and put three or four runs on the board. We committed a few mental errors on the base paths that put us in a few "unfortunate" situations. Frani Echavama and Lindsey Ziegenhirt turned a bad situation into a stellar situation when Frani threw a laser to Lindsey on a base hit to center for a put out at the plate that secured our lead. Lindsey fired to second getting the runner trying to advance on Frani's throw. The momentum of the game immediately flung into our laps within a matter of seconds and, in my opinion, we could have solidified a win by adding on one or two runs. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and Washington blanked us in extra innings and then ended the game with a walk off homerun by Washington first baseman Niki Williams.
Saturday night posed another disaster after almost getting hit by a cab with Frani. Seattle does not put their pedestrians first. After living in Berkeley for two years, where you can walk in the middle of the street when cars are approaching knowing that they will stop for you, we had a near disaster. Seattle drivers do not wait and Frani and I almost learned that lesson the VERY hard way, literally. Then, after walking aimlessly throughout the streets of Seattle we finally found the Cheesecake Factory! Though the night got worse after we found out the wait was over an hour; we then tried to change course and went to eat somewhere else where I had the worst dinner of my life. Everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. After this meal, I decided I needed to do soothing cardio session on the 28th floor to collect my thoughts and visualize success on Sunday.
I have to say one thing about Sunday that I need to get off my chest. Arianna Erceg pitched awesome and the score does not reflect her effort. She held Washington for the majority of the game, and we could not put runs on the board for her. Washington eventually strung a few clutch hits together and put the game out of reach. Our defense and offense did not show up which was disappointing after already seeing this pitcher on Saturday. We had two hits, one each by Jamia Reid and Britt Vonk, which is not enough to beat a team like Washington!
It is important to come out really strongly this weekend against Oregon. They swept us last year and we have some unfinished business to attend to with them. We need to protect our honor and dignity on this upcoming three-week home stand. The Pac-10 conference is the most competitive conference in the country and no games here are going to be a "walk in the park." Our offense and defense need to wake up and showcase what we are really capable of doing. It would be awesome to see you all over the next few weeks. GO BEARS! To end things on a high note, here are two pictures from Halloween in the weight room. Never a dull moment with my teammates!
April 8, 2011 - Spring Has Sprung
I want everyone to know what I am up to on this glorious Monday while the rest of you are stuck at work. I have the urge to make you all jealous so I believe I will share today's festivities with you. I am currently lounging at my community pool, it's approximately 77 degrees outside and I have absolutely nothing to do. With that being said, I think that spring has officially sprung! Days like today reinforce my thoughts of never graduating, could undergraduate education be a possible career path? Probably not, but wouldn't it be great to have a BA in absolutely everything including how to beat a No. 4-ranked team on a beautiful Sunday at Levine-Fricke field? I don't have a BA in softball triumphs but I'll tell you how it was done...EFFORT.
But first, here are two photos from my collection for you guys:
Hats off to freshman pitcher Arianna Erceg for her stellar pitching performances all weekend against a top-four team that boasts the best hitting statistics in the most dominant conference in the country. Not an easy task to accomplish!! Even though we lost on both Friday and Saturday, I thought she did a fantastic job. To win a game you need both OFFENSE and defense and I thought Ari put us in a great position to win. I also think it shows a great deal as to what kind of character this girl has. We were blown out by UOP, in all aspects of the game, and instead of giving up, making excuses, and pouting she took it to the field at practice on Thursday and worked her tail off. That is a winner and someone who refuses to give up. It is no coincidence that she came out against ASU as strong as she did.
I am excited to see where this team is heading and I know our bats are going to wake up, we are getting 1 percent better every day. At this point in the season, that is all that matters. In the end it is not how you hit in April, it is how you hit in late May and June.
I feel like a recording device when I give props to Jolene Henderson on her amazing pitching performances. I believe Sunday was a typical pitchers duel and Jolene came out on top. SURPRISE SURPRISE. Our offense was more disciplined and active in Sundays duel and I would like to deem freshman Ashley Decker our offensive player of the weekend. She got two hits in every game against one of the premier teams in the country! A job well done! Your job as a leadoff is to get on base and I thought she accomplished that and more. I would deem junior center fielder Frani Echavarria as this weekends most clutch player. She made a diving catch in game one that kept us alive and hit in a crucial RBI in game three. I deem freshman Victoria Jones defensive and hustle player of the weekend. The plays she made can only be fully appreciated if you were at the games in person. This girl hustles 24/7. A routine pop fly into the outfield got lost in the sun and she turned it into a double play. She gives nothing less than 110 percent, and I believe it really showed this weekend. We kept our heads up and refused to get swept on our home field on Sunday, bottom-line!
It has been brought to my attention that my readers would like to see more player interviews and off the field pictures. Your wish is my command...Here's a look at what some of the girls think about starting the Pac-10 season!
Jace Williams: With our second Pac-10 season approaching what are you going to do differently this time around that you wish you would have done last Pac-10 season?
Jolene Henderson: I feel so much stronger than I did last year in many ways, and I feel a difference in our team. I feel our team meshes well together, and we all have a strong sense of team. That being said, I'm just going to go into every game knowing my team is behind me and that we can pull though anything.
Jace Williams: What has been the most challenging aspect of your position switch this season?
Jordan Wallace: Being involved in every play would have to be the most challenging aspect. First base has a lot of put outs and is involved in almost every play. As a middle infielder, I could watch the play be finished, not so much at first.
Jace Williams: What Pac-10 team are you most excited to play? And why?
LaRisa Jones: Washington, because I want to watch you go "psycho" on some Huskies! (well, thank you LaRisa, hopefully I can do that for you... haha)
Cassandra Vega: I am excited to play UCLA because I know some girls on the team, and I want to play against the defending national champions.
Alex Robben: I am excited to play Stanford. "Big Games" are always exciting and intense and those are the best and most fun games to be apart of.
Jace Williams: What do you see as your individual role on the team as Pac-10 play begins?
Victoria Jones: My role is to step up and be the best player I can be. I want to be able to produce and back up our pitchers both offensively and defensively.
Ashley Decker: I would say my individual role is to get on base any way I can to create opportunities for the team to score.
Jace Williams: What is your main individual goal going into the Pac-10 season?
Lindsey Ziegenhirt: I have a few goals, but overall I would like to be a more productive player. If that means having a high RBI stat then I want to have that. If it means improving the number of runners I throw out stealing, then I'll do that. My individual goals reflect what I believe will help out the team and in the end, that is the most important.
Now don't think that I am avoiding discussion of the 13-2 loss to UOP. That game was a complete disaster and a humbling experience all at the same time. Moral of the story: it doesn't matter what the name on the front of your jersey says. Every team you face should be treated with the same sense of urgency and intensity. No team should be taken lightly. That game will be in the back of our minds for the duration of the season, but we're moving forward.
We would like to give a special shout out and thank you to all those who came out and supported us over the weekend. Your cheers were heard and greatly appreciated. Expect progress out of us every weekend and know that your continued support will help us elevate our game to the next level. We believe in ourselves and we can't wait to show you all of the improvements we will make going into the next home series. Hopefully, the weather cooperates with us in Seattle and until next time ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
March 23, 2011 - Wahine Road Warriors
Six days in Hawaii isn't too shabby of a deal. In my opinion our toughest weekend yet, which poses many more positives than negatives. I am going to switch things up a little and talk positives first. It is hard for me to really dwell on any negatives seeing as though we spent five nights in an awesome hotel on Waikiki Beach and got to soak in some rays before and after games. I accomplished one of my goals this past weekend, which was to rid my arms of my horrific farmer's tan but sadly came short on the more important goal of winning the tournament.
This tournament is also my favorite due to the short commute my family can take from Maui to Oahu. I only get to see my father, stepmother and four brothers two or three times a year, if I am lucky, and this tournament provides me with some much needed family time. My nine-year-old brother, Zachary, had been talking about his experience as last year's bat boy for an entire year so it was fun to see him back in action. Even after a strikeout, I had to smile because he told me, "well you got a hit last time, and you still did good, Sister." How could I possibly be mad in the dugout after hearing that! The weather cooperated with us all weekend except for one or two short rain spells while we warmed up. Last year seemed to be more humid so it was nice to get a cool breeze going for the majority of the weekend.
I got some "out of nowhere" motivation on the plane and wrote my Sociology paper, so when we finally landed I was pretty pumped to know that my spring break had begun a week early! We grabbed some food and headed straight to Hawaii's field to get in a quick practice before we hit the sands of Waikiki. While I was on the beach, I kept thinking to myself "what the heck am I forgetting to do, there must be something I should be doing right now" because none of us are used to free time! Free time usually means "catching up in school work". After a minor anxiety attack, I realized that now was a time I could relax and embrace my current situation.
Call it a new tradition but the first night we spend in Hawaii, we have a team dinner at Benihana. After a delicious dinner and briefly losing my wallet - don't be shocked, I usually lose something important on a weekly basis - I headed back up to my room to unpack and organize for the next day's game versus Iona.
BYU came out and scored two runs early, but we were swinging the bats well and knew that they were going to need more than two runs to beat us. We kept our heads up and battled throughout the entire game and walked away with a 4-2 win. BYU is a "never say die" type of team so cruising was never an option. We kept on our toes both offensively and defensively to secure a win.
Besides getting "my bell rung" at the plate with a rise ball to the back of the head - I definitely forgot where I was for a quick second - it was a rather smooth sailing game. The winner of this game was going to be the team that could execute better. We scored a run off a dropped third strike and a sacrifice hit to the right side by Lindsey Ziegenhirt to score a runner from third on both occasions. Both productive outs that put us ahead, 2-0. Jolene gave up her first homerun of the season (VERY IMPRESSIVE) to a hitter who in my opinion, is one of the premier hitters in the country. No biggie, to go 22 games without giving up a homerun is something I have never seen done before so props to Jolene. Freshman Ashley Decker had been making solid contact all night and in her last at bat power slapped a double into the left center gap to score a third and final crucial run. We are now 3-0 against ranked teams, and I think that is an impressive stat compared to last year's mark in that category. It was a complete team win on all cylinders and earned us the number one seed going into bracket play on Saturday. BRAVO. Cleveland State beat Iona in the nightcap game, so we were set to face Cleveland State (#4 seed) Saturday.
Another complete team win versus Cleveland State. It would have been nice to end this one early and save Jolene's arm for the final, but we only managed to score six runs instead of eight. Add another shutout to Jolene's already impressive 2011 campaign.
I really wish I could stop writing now because I do not want to revisit the events of our second match up against BYU. I have to tip my cap to that squad though; they were fired up the entire game and came out with a vengeance. This loss was a lot easier to swallow compared to the Texas Tech and Northwestern losses because BYU straight up came out and beat us. The other two losses I felt like we should have won, of course I believe we should have beat BYU, as well, but they straight up out played us on all cylinders. Jolene was pitching her fifth complete game of the weekend and was in no condition to be pitching extra outs, and we let her down on defense. Plain and simple. We didn't get the job done offensively or defensively and we learned that it is really difficult to beat a good team like that.
On a positive note, I thought freshman shortstop Britt Vonk had a stellar weekend on defense and made a bunch of difficult plays look easy. Congratulations to Jolene Henderson and Frani Echavarria on making the All Tournament Team, and I guess myself, although I do not deem three errors in a tournament worthy of the award. But luckily for me, I am not the one making that decision. We hit a small roadblock so it is back to the drawing board we go. Every loss needs to be a learning experience and we all need to be able to take something positive and constructive away from this loss in particular. I thought our energy was low but that is something we can work on. Fine tuning our skills before our weekend campaign in Davis is a must. Getting 1 percent better every day will land us in the type of position we want to be in come June. GO BEARS!
March 15, 2011 - The Big Bad Bears Bring Big Bats, Booyah
Apparently discipline is not in my vocabulary on this bus ride back to Berkeley. I told myself that I would write my sociology paper, but of course I cannot keep my eyes off the movie playing. We are watching "Taken," and I am glad my teammates are here because I am legitimately scared right now. The sad part is that I have already seen this movie two or three times. This movie also makes me re-think my entire Euro vacation that I have planned this summer, moral of the story do not trust the French. Just kidding I love French people and their amazing eye for fashion. The real moral of the story is that long bus rides are much more pleasant and enjoyable coming off a four win undefeated weekend. GO BEARS!
All of you should know by now that I like to talk negatives and get them out of the way before I talk positives. With that being said, I know you all remember my statement in last week's blog in regards to an error-free weekend. Not only did I jinx my team, but I jinxed myself, pretty unfortunate. I trust that we are getting it all out of our system before we hit the beaches of Oahu.
We find ways to win games. Like I've said before, that is all that matters. Jolene Henderson is carrying at least 2,000 pounds of weight on her back. She has carried this team, and done so in dominating fashion, since February 11th. I think we all need to pitch in and buy her a deep tissue massage. She deserves it after pitching all four games this weekend. She also made the All-Tournament Team this weekend, which is again very well deserved. Other than a few errors in the field this weekend and our offense taking a game off versus Troy, we played pretty solidly.
Just as I started talking about Hawaii, Coach handed out next week's itinerary. Woo Hoo- there is definitely time to hit the beach. My mind is clearly in Aloha land right now because I am having difficulty focusing on the task at hand.
Back to Fresno, Jamia Reid made history in my personal memory files. I have never seen an inside-the-park grand slam. Now that I think about it, I do not think I have ever even seen an in-the-park home run in college. I can now say I have seen it all people, and it is awesome! Jamia had an overall terrific weekend. I would say that eight hits, six RBI and MVP of the tournament is a pretty good showing. Victoria Jones also got her first home run as a Bear this weekend and on the flip side, she is one of two infielders that are still fielding 1.000. VIC-VIC-VIC-VIC JONES and Ashley Decker have been flawless in the field. STUDS.
We had some unfinished business to attend to against Fresno State. In 2009, the Bears were blown off course with a two-minute delayed illegal pitch call that ultimately resulted in a loss for the Bears. BOO. Call me weird but I love playing when 95 percent of the fans are rooting against me. For some reason, it fires me up, the more people rooting against me the more I like it. I love being that team that ruins the mood.
Jolene had her "swag" in check, AGAIN, and led us to V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. I swear her back must be getting sore, 2,000 pounds is a lot of weight. We ended the tournament undefeated, even if we did have to take a long bus ride back to Berkeley.
Anyways, thank you all for following us and showing us your continued support. You guys rock our socks and make what we do every weekend fun. KEEP THE FAITH and make sure you send us good vibes while we cross the Pacific Ocean. We have some tough games scheduled and have set our standards high. GO BEARS!
March 9, 2011 - Keep on Truckin'
First off, the weather in Fullerton was amazing. I came home to the Bay Area on Saturday night to realize my farmers tan was in full force. However, it's ok. We are going to Hawaii next week, and I plan on wearing long sleeves while on the field to prevent any new hazardous tan lines, and dousing my entire body in Maui babe tanning lotion off the field. It doesn't matter if it is 90 degrees outside with unfathomable humidity, I will be out there on the field in full sleeves. Call me crazy. Go Bears!
I hate to be a Negative Nancy but the loss to Northwestern this past weekend really stung. As the coaching staff explained at practice, every team goes through their ups and downs. It is nearly impossible to go an entire 56 game season undefeated. So there are going to be times when as a team you hit a "wall" and it's up to the team to decide how we are going to get past that wall. You can either break through the wall with full force or find ways to avoid going through the wall because you believe as a unit it is impossible or unattainable. Obviously, we chose to break through the wall because we are Bears and Bears are gnarly. However, the only way to get past the wall is to admit your faults, accept whatever the outcome was, learn from the experience and work even harder at practice. We lost to Northwestern because we could not execute. I blame myself for not moving Britt over to third in the ninth inning. If I would have moved her over or caught that line drive with two outs in that final inning, we might have won. But we will never know. We had numerous opportunities to score early in the game, but we never got that one crucial hit that we needed. What made this loss particularly frustrating was the fact that they did this to us last year, LAME.
Props to Northwestern's lead-off hitter Emily Allard and its pitcher Jessica Smith. We could not figure out how to stop Emily, nor was it surprising that she had the game-winning walk of single to score the runner at third. Jessica Smith moved the ball around the plate and got us to chase pitches out of the zone. We were hitting or lack thereof hitting the pitches she wanted us to hit instead of hitting the pitches we wanted to hit. I cannot talk about this game anymore I need to move on ha ha. Moving forward, freshman pitcher Arianna Erceg got her first win in our game versus IPFW and it's just one of many more to come as a Bear. We bounced back from our loss against Northwestern and scored 18 runs. Granted, they had scored six runs off of us, but hey a win is a win.
Our first game Saturday morning against Iowa was a little nerve racking. We were losing by two runs in a rather frustrating manner. I knew we would bounce back but it took a little longer than anyone would have liked. We had one big six-run inning that broke the game open for us and ultimately we came away with the W.
We handled Murray State in five innings and, in my opinion, played our best softball of the weekend. On a side note, Jolene Henderson in 13 games of pitching has not given up a homerun. That is an impressive statistic considering the velocity of her pitches. Against Murray State, she threw a no-hitter and a shutout this weekend, which is another impressive statistic that she continues to add on to this season.
This week in practice, we need to work on our offensive execution and focus on limiting our errors in the field. We made physical errors this past weekend but what hurt the most were the select few mental errors we made that were not recorded in the stat book. We are setting the goal of having an errorless tournament this weekend in Fresno. GRRRR-AH.
I would also like to give Elia Reid a shout out for her dominating performance in Fullerton. Not only was she selected as the Cal Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week, but she was named the Pac-10 Player of the Week, as well. She had an amazing 10 RBI, two homers and two triples in a four-game weekend. PRETTY IMPRESSIVE and definitely worthy of both awards. GO ELIA!
March 2, 2011 - Curse Breakin' Bears
Wow, first off, what a weekend. In my opinion, the best all-around weekend we have had thus far. I wouldn't say this past weekend is how we intend to play all year because I think we are A) A LOT better than we displayed and B) FAR from reaching our potential. Although, glimpses of brilliance were certainly present!!
On a side note, we did break two more curses this weekend, our SEC curse and our extra-inning curse. Last year we were plagued with extra inning games, and we did not win one single game that went to extra innings. We also struggled against SEC teams. But this year, we are 1-0 in both categories, and we intend on keeping it that way. The difference between this year and last year is that we refuse to give up, and quite frankly, we refuse to lose.
After Indiana scored two runs, I shot a look at my teammates in the huddle, and I knew there was no way we were going down. Coach had told us before the game that our speed wrecks havoc on teams, and that we could simply win a game without getting a hit. Think about that for a second...
Although winning games without hitting is not ideal, at times, when our bats are struggling all we need to do is put the ball on the ground to make things happen. It's like pulling a pocket ace out of your sleeve. Our bats were struggling but we found a way to win, and that is what matters. Our defense let up a little in that game but hey THINGS HAPPEN its how you deal with the adversity that is thrown your way that is important. We adjusted and came to the plate with a vengeance.
Jolene Henderson is an absolute beast in all the right ways. This girl is unstoppable so far and until you see her pitch in person, you cannot fathom the amount of growth she has had as a pitcher. Her demeanor, confidence and overall swag have increased tremendously from last year and the amount of fight in this girl is incomparable. Refusal to lose is a phrase I continue to use, and I cannot tell you how much easier it is to play your own game when you look at the mound and your pitcher has the eye of the tiger. She is intimidating and her attitude is fierce, and it has elevated everyone's level of play. GO JOLENE!
The LSU game was by far the best and MOST FUN overall game we have played as a unit. The perfect mix of power and speed shut down the Tigers. They had no answer as to how to play us defensively nor could their fans figure out how to compete with ours. We want to thank all of our fans who came out and supported us in Palm Springs. You guys were awesome and crazy, and we love when you guys get loud - thank you Maria! A special shout out to Momma Reid and my aunt, they definitely won the cheering battle over those LSU fans. Keep it up with those pom-poms, ladies!
Well back to softball. Our speedsters got on!!! Both Jamia Reid and Britt Vonk had four hits apiece and our power sent a few long balls over the fence, thank you Jordan Wallace and Jolene Henderson. I hadn't done my "crazy homerun dance" in awhile, and I got to do it, not once, but twice!! The best part about it though was doing my dance in front of an SEC crowd.
PRICELESS. Jolene once again had a stellar performance on the mound, and the defense went errorless. GO BEARS.
I tend to be a very critical person and in my opinion, a few areas of improvement that we should take to practice this week are:
1) Being consistent at the plate:
We hit far below our potential against Indiana and Cal Poly then we come out against LSU and get a million hits. Doesn't really make sense but hey, we are going to work on it.
2) Confidence in the field:
We all need to develop some sort of swagger out there and I feel if we were to believe in ourselves more we will start making plays that will surprise even ourselves.
3) Base running:
A few sketchy scenarios out there but base running is all about repetition, and I am sure coach will have us working on a few things this week.
I don't know about y'all but this past weekend excited me. We are 6-0 in Southern California. I don't mean to sound bias or anything.... Hint, hint, but I think we play well down there, and I am looking forward to going back. Make sure you "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all updates and recaps...KEEP THE FAITH ANNNND GO BEARS!
Feb. 21, 2011 - The Big 12 Curse Has Ended!
Being a San Diego native myself, I was extremely excited to come home and play in familiar terrain. Although I consider Encinitas - a small beach town in North County where I live - superb to any other city in San Diego County, I was still happy to be within 10 miles of the ocean. I constantly brag about San Diego weather, and I swear Mother Earth did not want to cooperate with me this weekend or she was upset with the way I talk about Bay Area weather. Either way, I found myself singing, "Rain, rain go away come again some other WEEKEND when we aren't here1"
This game was the ultimate pitcher's duel. I would like to give props to Missouri's pitcher Chelsea Thomas. She had a mean drop ball and change up that kept our offense off point all game. She got us to chase pitches out of the zone and got ahead in the count early and often. She mixed her pitches well and threw to all locations.
With that being said Jolene Henderson had a very impressive performance, as well. She trusted her defense and did a great job at keeping their hitters off balance. She had numerous KEY strikeouts and kept a top-tier offensive program to one hit through the sixth inning. The first batter of the game dropped a bunt on me for a hit so I consider that my fault for not playing closer to home plate. Our defense, yet again, had another FLAWLESS performance!
The sixth inning is where things started to get hectic. Elia Reid started the inning off and did a great job at beating out a chopper. Thank goodness she runs like a cheetah and stole second base, now we have a runner in scoring position. Jamia was mid at-bat with a 1-2 count when the umpires decided to discontinue our game due to rain, leaving Elia Reid stranded at second base with no outs. Play on Saturday was canceled due to rain so we were set to finish our game with Missouri at 8:30 am Sunday morning.
Missouri Recap, Take Two:
The game resumed Sunday morning and Jamia found a way to get on 1st base with a dropped third strike. The catcher thought the ball had foul tipped off Jamia's bat and was hesitant to throw to first with Elia, who had taken third on the play, ready to pounce at any potential mistake. Jamia stole second so now we had two runners in scoring postion with Britt Vonk up.
Britt had been practicing her slaps to the right side all during warm-ups and knew this was her time to shine. She chopped a ball to the second baseman, who bobbled the ball forcing her to get the out at first allowing Elia to score. PERFECT EXECUTION. When your offense is down you have to find ways to score and make things happen and that is exactly what Britt did. Jordan and I struck out swinging to end the inning.
With the 1-0 win, we broke our Big 12 curse! Coach Ninemire informed us that we had not beaten any Big 12 teams in two years. But we ran away with the win against No. 7/8 Missouri.
Friday night Victoria Jones's (another San Diego native and former travel ball teammate) family hosted us at Outback Steakhouse (thank you very much). We dominated the entire back half of the restaurant. On a side note, our bus driver was from L.A. and did not know the San Diego area very well. Someone in the front of the bus yells, "Jace, where the heck are we"? I look up and we are about to enter the beach town of Ocean Beach. I had to use my local navigation skills to get us back on track. GO BEARS!
With midterms coming up, the Bears will be hitting the books hard over the next few weeks and with the cooperation of Mother Earth, we will be working on hitting the softball hard as well. We anticipate bringing all aspects of our game with us to Palm Springs. Thank you for your ongoing support annnnnnnnnd GO BEARS! I will recap Saturday's activities and the Santa Barbara game later in the week.
Feb. 14, 2011 - Arizona State Recap
Well we finished our first weekend of play. I was really disappointed that we had zero games scheduled at "The Stadium" after we swept ASU there last year. We had to play all four of our games at the Tempe Sports Park.
I have not been on a plane since last season's Super Regional flight home to the Bay so my flying methods and "tricks" were a little rusty. It took a little longer than usual for me to pack my bags, and I was suffering a serious case of OCD when it came to making sure I had everything I needed. Come to find out, I forgot my game belt. Thank goodness Elia Reid had an extra one!!!
It was also nice playing in some DRY heat. I forgot what that felt like! My face got a little sun burned on Friday.
Before I talk about Britt Vonk, who had what I would like to call "a ridiculously gnarly" weekend going 8-for-10 among a bunch of other crazy accomplishments, I want to give you a little piece of my mind and recap each game.
Cal State Bakersfield:
It was nice getting our first-game jitters out of the way in such a flashy fashion. We pounded out 13 hits, including a grand slam by Jolene Henderson and another homerun. But here's the catch, WE MADE ZERO ERRORS IN THE FIELD!! For all of those reading this blog who are unaware of our Achilles' heel from last season, it was our infield defensive errors. I swear we made an error every game. I will own up to the seven or eight errors I contributed to that horrific statistic, but I swear that won't happen again.
We dominated every aspect of the game which was awesome and nearly every player on the team got a chance to play including one of our freshman pitchers, Ari Erceg, who got her first inning as a Golden Bear. Jamia Reid led the team going 3-for-3 while Jolene led the team in RBI with six. What a start, GO BEARS!
Cal State Northridge:
We came out swinging the bats early and often. We had three homeruns in the game. One from a very likely candidate in Lindsey Ziegenhirt, but the other two came from players who ended last season with ONLY one homerun!!! Woo hoo, Jamia Reid and myself hit (well, Jamia slapped) our first homeruns tying last year's mark in the first weekend. That's a good sign people! Britt Vonk had another ridiculous game not only at the plate but in the field, as well. THE BEARS HAD ANOTHER ERRORLESS GAME! I am hoping that will be a consistent trend for the infielders this year. Jolene Henderson earned her second win of the weekend shutting down the Matadors while Ari came in to close the game throwing a perfect inning.
This game was an absolute battle for all seven innings. Texas Tech's lefty pitcher was giving us some trouble and allowed only three hits going into the sixth inning. We were hitting the ball and putting it in play, but I swear that ball had a tracking device zoned into the other team's leather because we could not catch a break. Jolene was shutting them down until the fifth inning, when it got harder for her to get a strike from the umpire, making her leave the ball over the white of the plate. I cannot tell you how many lucky bloop hits they got in that inning. It was absolutely ridiculous. We made a pair of errors in the field, one throwing error in the infield on a do-or-die type of play that was extremely tough. Britt charged hard, the girl was fast, and Britt threw on a run and threw wide. We rolled the dice and lost, that happens. It was a great try!
In my opinion, their best hit of the inning was lined in shallow right center. Frani was sprinting full speed, the runners on second and third were tagging, and it tipped off her outstretched glove. Once again, a tough play that didn't go our way. We ended the fifth inning in a 5-0 hole, but you best believe we were not hanging our heads. We battled back and scored four runs, hitting through the entire order in the top of the sixth. Like I said earlier, I swear the ball had a tracking device because Jamia hit a screaming line drive right to the shortstop in the 5/6 hole leaving the tying run on third. Bummer city.
In the last inning, we held Texas Tech to zero runs with a clutch strikeout by Jolene and ran in for our last attempt to win this game. Britt once again led off the inning this time with a clutch infield single. Frani came up next and hit an ABSOLUTE laser. Besides Jolene's grand slam in the first game, this was the hardest hit all weekend. Of course, the right fielder was positioned perfectly, she leaped in the air and caught the line drive that almost went over her head and doubled Britt off at first who had one thing in her mind, scoring. That was the way our luck was going all game. I grounded out to second to end the game. Britt hit and led the team going 2-2, but I would also like to point out that freshman Ashley Decker was acknowledged in the bus by Coach Ninemire for having a stellar game. It's better to get beat than to give up and lose so we kept our heads high and stayed positive. On a side note, it was Coach Ninemire's birthday, so we went to Red Robin after the game and enjoyed singing her the "Red Robin Birthday Song".
Of course Indiana pitched their lefty ace hoping we would struggle like we did last night, but they were WRONG. We quickly came out scoring two runs in the first inning. Jamia, Britt, and myself all hit infield singles before Jordan Wallace came up with a clutch two out single scoring both Jamia and Britt. We played another stellar game defensively - zero errors, thank you very much - and made some pretty tough outs in the infield to help Jolene out on the mound. Elia Reid hit her first solo homerun of the season giving us a three run lead that we kept all game.
Although we were disappointed in our loss to Texas tech, we didn't get down, and we came out on Sunday ready to get the win. Jolene pitched awesome all weekend and Ari now has two innings under her belt as a Golden Bear. We have a lot to do this week in practice in preparation for San Diego. We open the tournament with Missouri, which is potentially our toughest game all pre-season. They played in the College World Series each the past two seasons, and they have a lot of veteran players to earn them a top-10 ranking. This will be a big test for the Bears, and we can't wait to show the country what we are made of. GRRRRR-AH!
Feb. 7, 2011 - The Packers Are Victorious!
First off, how 'bout them Packers?! If you are a true Cal fan you were rooting for former Golden Bears Aaron Rogers and Desmond Bishop! I am so happy Rogers was named the game's MVP. Go Chargers...I mean go Packers!! I'm sorry but I am a die-hard Charger fan, and I can't wait for next season to cheer on my Chargers!!!
I am literally in a food coma right now. I BBQ'd flank steaks, baby back ribs and shrimp skewers last night, and I have no idea how I am going to feel at 7 a.m., when I wake up for practice. On a side note, I got new headphones from Best Buy, so I'm blasting techno while I write this blog. I can't help but be upbeat - we leave for Arizona on Thursday to open our season. This is what we have been working for all year long, geez, we ran the entire football stadium in anticipation of this weekend.
The preseason rankings came out, and they put us at 12th in the nation. That's cool; I don't mind being underrated - flying under the radar is where we want to be. The Pac-10 Conference, yet again, proves to be the most dominant conference in the country, with six of the Conference's eight teams ranked in the top 25, including the top-two picks - No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 UCLA. It is such an honor representing this conference. The Pac-10's legacy continues to live on, and I am so happy to have been given the opportunity to be a part of it. I am a tad bit emotional right now. I haven't been on an airplane since last year's Super Regional, and I'm a little worked up. I forgot what traveling every weekend and sleeping in hotel beds were like.
Cal has not been to Oklahoma City for the Women's College since 2005. That year must seem like forever ago, Britney Spears was still a hit!! I am sorry you fans have had to wait so long for a WCWS! We are putting all we have into this year and there will be no "shoulda, coulda, wouldas." If we aren't there in the end, it's not because we didn't have the talent. We have all the physical qualities to take us to the very end. It will definitely be an entire team effort, and the Bears are willing to do whatever it's going to take!!!
Well, I'm tired of talking so I decided to feature Jamia Reid, Jolene Henderson, and Lindsey Ziegenhirt in this week's edition of the Hot Corner.
What is different about this year's team? What feels different this year?
Jolene Henderson: The difference is the confidence level and team cohesiveness. We all know what we want, and we act as a unified system. We are strong in numbers and just love being on the field. We take every opportunity that we get. What feels different from last year are our strength and mental preparation. The returnees have a really strong base and have relayed everything we know to the freshmen class. A combination of strength and thirst for success are a powerful combination.
Jamia Reid: This team is split down the middle in terms of age. Half of the team are newcomers while the other half are returners. It is different because all of the freshmen have to step outside of their comfort zone and learn new positions. They have to step up and take on big roles even though they are freshman.
Lindsey Ziegenhirt: This year's team has a can-do attitude. Nothing is too big or small to give 100 percent effort. I think with a young team like this, it's important to have chemistry and desire to work hard and this year, I think, we have both. We've already accomplished a lot of tough tasks, like running Memorial Stadium, and coming out on top. This season will be similar: we are going to start with a goal - the World Series - and every week, we'll chip away and get closer to accomplishing it.
What do you see as your individual role this season?
Jamia Reid: My job is to put the ball in play and get on base. I have to do whatever it takes to get myself in scoring position so my teammates can bring me around to score. Putting pressure on the defense is what I need to do to succeed.
Jolene Henderson: My individual role is to do whatever is asked of me. Whether it is to pitch, hit, play first or to encourage my teammates, it is all important. I know that our team is capable of achieving great things so I just have to do what the team needs.
Lindsey Ziegenhirt: I need to be a run producer, and a more effective voice on the field. If there are Cal runners on base, I need to hit them in. If an opponent is on base, I need to throw them out. With one year of experience under my belt, I'm more comfortable with any added responsibilities. I need to use the confidence I have gained to help my team be more confident as a unit. GO BEARS.
Well that wraps it up for this week. Season starts Friday, and I can't wait to actually write a blog recapping a weekend of play, how exciting. PLEASE keep up with us on whatever media outlet suits your desire!!! GOOOOO BEARS!!!!
First off, I want to let everyone know that the camp we hosted on Saturday was a giant success. I would like you all to believe it was solely due to the bagels that Coach Ninemire brought us in the morning. If you were wondering I had an "everything" bagel/cream cheese on both halves. But it was the passion and pride that we brought with us to the field that made the day such a success!! Over 115 girls attended the clinic. They showed up Saturday morning in spite of Levine-Fricke's polar climate forecast. Luckily, the weather cooperated and the rain held off until the clinic was finished. I am so proud of the team's effort, and I'm not going to lie, the Bears can put on one heck of a clinic.
I feel like talking about school. Ok, never mind, my palms are starting to sweat...haha! It is hard to believe that our third week of classes is really underway! Fortunately for me, I have only had to write one paper! I have no idea why I am about to discuss my personal fashion traumas with you, but I need to get this off my chest. I want to know why I always start the semester off wearing cute clothes, but by week three, it's back to sweat pants, Uggs, t-shirts and beanies? I know it's embarrassing. However, I will also admit that during the first two weeks of a new semester I have this incredible swag or strut going on around campus. But by week three, I find myself wondering how the heck I'm going to make it. Maybe I need to work on my circle breathing, or maybe I just need to realize that faking a swag in the beginning of the semester doesn't work! Either way we have 14 weeks left. BRING IT!
Let's talk some softball, in particular, offense!! With the addition of four freshman lefties - Alex Robben, Ashley Decker, LaRisa Jones and Britt Vonk - one can only wonder what Coach Ninemire has up her sleeve. I personally think it is brilliant, especially when our lefties have some serious gap power as well as the short game. I like to call it a TRIPLE THREAT - bunt, slap, hit. A roster with seven lefties and 11 righties poses an interesting situation for opposing pitchers and defenses.
It is safe to say that 11 of our 19 players can steal a base, beat out a chopper, or successfully sneak a bunt in for a base hit. PRETTY CRAZY. If anything, our speed will make defenses freak out. As I said before, I can honestly say with confidence that we are the fastest team in the country. I know it's a bold statement but Coach Ninemire loves cheetahs and by cheetahs, I mean speedsters like Jamia Reid and Elia Reid. It might sound creepy but I love watching them run. Life just isn't fair.
Power hitters Lindsey Ziegenhirt, Victoria Jones, Elia Reid and Jordan Wallace will be in an all out home-run war, which is awesome because I love celebrating home runs.
Winning takes work, and I couldn't imagine practice being anymore competitive than it already is but the notch has been raised, yet again. Everyone is working their booties off to crack this lineup, and I don't think there will be a clear-cut starting lineup until Feb. 11. These last few practices are crucial as we get ready to embark on the 2011 season!
We are officially 10 days away from our first game, and we hope that all of our fans will either be attending the games in Arizona, watching us on game tracker, following Lindsey's mom on twitter - @rookiebears1754 - for play by play, or reading our game recaps posted on Calbears.com. You should definitely also follow Cal Softball on Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/CalSoftball -- and like Cal Softball on Facebook - http://www.facebookc.om/CalSoftball. Both of those are a great way to keep up with our team. If you want to know about the Bears' social media practices, check out this release. We love our fans and we want to go all the way this year!!! GOOOO BEARS!
Wow, this week has been eventful! Our first week of classes has come and gone, and somehow I have managed to dodge all the speedy out of control bicyclists. That's the good news, the bad news is that I kind of miss our team yoga sessions after weights. I wish you could have seen us in there, good times! I must say that as a group we performed at a very respectable level, but it is safe to say that none of us, minus Lindsey Ziegenhirt, intends on becoming an Ashtanga master!
On a completely different note, we took team pictures at the field on Wednesday. I must say that our photographers were rather creative; we shall see how they turn out. I'm not an angry person, but I prefer the "serious mean muggin'/let's look like we are about to attack the camera" type of team photograph versus the "smile/let's look overly happy in these awkward positions" type of photos. I don't know, personal preference, I guess. I'm sure you will enjoy either way!!
You can check out some of the photos I took at picture day in this handy dandy CalBears.com photo album:
I don't know about you but my entire Sunday is usually consumed with football, and I can't get Bart Scott's (Jet's linebacker) post-Patriot game interview out of my mind, if you haven't seen it, please do. I am going to use that post-game interview as my personal driving force all season!! CAN'T WAIT!! On a more relevant note, it's been awhile since we have had to juggle class, homework, practice and a crazy travel schedule, but February 11 is right around the corner.
We kick off our season at the Arizona State Tournament (Feb. 11-13) followed by the San Diego State Tournament (Feb. 18-20). We would love to see all of our Arizona and So. Cal fans at the games! Fans make a huge difference, creating a home environment at these away tournaments will give us that extra edge that every team loves to have.
With that being said let's talk some defense. First things first, I want to give the outfielders a HUGE shout out - Frani Echavarria, Jamia Reid, Elia Reid and LaRisa Jones. They have been working their tails off, and I'm not kidding when I say I do not know how they are still standing. Their hard work and determination are going to win us some big games this season. Grrrrr-ah!
The infield is extremely competitive as no starting spots have been secured. Freshman Victoria Jones and sophomore Jordan Wallace skip around the infield and have taken reps at every infield position. Our Dutch phenom, freshman Britt Vonk, has taken all of her reps at the shortstop position while freshman Ashley Decker and sophomore Diane Leider have taken the majority of their reps at the second base position. Ashley has shown her versatility as an athlete and has proven that she can play in the outfield as well.
Freshman lefty Alex Robben has taken all of her reps at first base along with our entire pitching staff. How awesome is it that our entire pitching staff can also play an infield position, that's what I like to call athleticism people!!! Myself and junior Amy Bishop have taken all of our reps at the third base position and sophomore Lindsey Ziegenhirt is joined at the catching position by freshmen Victoria Jones and Taylor Vincent.
Cracking the lineup this year will be a non-stop battle, what other way would we want it? Competition at practice creates the type of atmosphere every athlete thrives in and our team is taking full advantage of the opportunity to compete every single day. I cannot preach enough about the character and chemistry of this team. We mesh great, and I can honestly say it will be a huge contributing factor to our success along with our depth chart that is far deeper than it has been in the last five years! CAN I GET A "GOOOOOO BEARS!!!!"
You fans have a lot to be excited about this season, we are shooting high, and by high I mean winning this whole thing! A good mix of fresh faces along with veteran experience and leadership make up this gaggle of Bears. It starts with pitching. I mean come on, we have Valerie Arioto, a two-time All-American and three-time All-Pac-10 selection. She will be regarded as one of the best Bears ever, and she is hungry for her first and last chance at the Women's College World Series.
We've also got Jolene Henderson - a first-team All-Region selection, an All-Pac-10er, a Pac-10 All-Freshmen pick - who had what you might call a solid freshman campaign. We've also added Arianna Erceg, a lengthy 6-1 freshman whose high school accolades are quite impressive, and Cassandra Vega, a freshman who led her high school to go back-to-back league championships. I feel bad for all the opposing offenses that try and take on this pitching battery. It's unbelievable how well they complement each other. Val will break your ankles (basketball term) with her movement, good luck catching up to Jolene, have fun hitting Arianna when she explodes over six feet off the rubber, and enjoy Cassandra as she keeps you off balance.
I am going to give my girl Lindsey Ziegenhirt her own paragraph, not because she is a fellow blonde, but because she caught every single game last season. All 63 games, that is tough people and not enough credit is given to the one who gets beat up day in and day out behind the dish. We love you Lindsey (and your knees), and we are sorry for fouling pitches back in practice and hurting you. She finished second on the team in home runs with 15 and second in RBI with 58. And that doesn't even mention the crazy "I've been catching you since you were seven years old" connection she has with Jolene. She was a Pac-10 honorable mention and an All-Freshmen Team pick. I would also like to brag about her brain. This girl is smart and is dedicated not only on the field but in the classroom, as well.
If I was a homeowner, I would bet my mortgage (like Coach Ninemire would say) on this team leading the country in steals. The Reid twins are ridiculous athletes, anyone who has seen them run knows what I am talking about. Jamia led the conference last season with 48 successful steals and finished with a team high .380 batting average. She owned left field ending the season with a perfect fielding percentage. Elia Reid was a perfect 13-13 in steals and led the team with a .327 conference batting average. On a side note, Elia put up some amazing weight room numbers this fall. Coach Z, our strength/conditioning coach, told me that pound for pound, she is one of the best female athletes he has ever seen. That's a pretty impressive statement coming from someone with 15 years experience in the field. WOWZERS. With the addition of speedsters Ashley Decker, LaRisa Jones, and Britt Vonk, it is scary to think how many steals we will end up with this season.
Our offense is brilliantly balanced with speed, small ball and power. With seven lefties and 11 righties, opposing pitchers are going to have a hard time getting in any sort of groove on the mound. This team is very competitive and the atmosphere at practice is more intense than I could describe in a blog. Everyone is fighting for a spot in the lineup, and nothing is set in stone. We compete every day we step on the field, and you would not be disappointed in the effort displayed day in and day out. I personally have never been pushed so hard mentally and physically. I can say with confidence you will not be disappointed this season. The Bears are looking to break the four-season World Series drought, and we are excited to take you along with us on our journey. TOOTLES for now. GRRRRR-AH.
I'll keep the introduction short and sweet. My name is Jace Williams and I'm a redshirt junior at Cal after transferring from Washington. This is my second year on the squad and I am loving it! I like to call myself "Momma Bear" due to my old age (I just turned 22, WOOHOO) since I am the oldest on the team, sweet. Last season I was either holding it down as the DP - that's designated player/hitter - in the five spot or stationed at third base. Ok, that's enough about me let's talk about the good stuff; I want to get all you Cal fans fired up about the upcoming season!!
Every player on the roster was given the opportunity to showcase their abilities. In five of the six games Coach Ninemire hit all 19 players and rotated defense every two or three innings. Every player was seen at multiple positions and the hitting line up was by jersey number. Poor Jolene Henderson, who wears No. 54, had to hit in the last spot all fall. But you best believe she took advantage of her at-bats.
We came out victorious in five of our games and walked away with a tie against Nevada. Our last two scheduled fall games were canceled due to weather. Every single player contributed, in one way or another, and I couldn't help but notice how well our team meshed as a unit. Team chemistry is very important; it can either make or break a team. A talented team with bad chemistry will never win a national championship. It is plain and simple!!
What makes this year's team special is the fact that we all know what we as individuals bring to the team. We know that we all have to accept our specific roles and own them. For those fans who came out to watch, it was only a small glimpse of what this team is capable of.
That's it for the first edition! Check back later for all you need to know about our incredibly talented team!