No. 1 Cal is all business
BERKELEY, Calif. -- No dogpiles for Cal on Sunday evening. No point burning good celebration energy, not when there is so much more to be done.
"We're going to hold off until the final game of the World Series," Cal left fielder Jamia Reid said.
To no one's surprise, the top-seeded Bears took a spot in the Women's College World Series, defeating Washington 2-0 to sweep the best-of-three series on their home field.
The players high-fived, they hugged, they ran out to center field to wave and clap and thank the nearly 1,200 people who showed up to cheer them on.
And now, back to work.
Freshman Cheyenne Cordes was the heroine, her two-run blast over the scoreboard in left-center putting a stop to a pitchers' duel and giving Cal all the runs it needed. Reid, meanwhile, saved at least a couple of runs with a diving catch in left after the Huskies loaded the bases in the first inning against Jolene Henderson.
"A game of inches," said Cal coach Diane Ninemire, who called the game "the biggest win in Cal history for softball."
Reminded that her program won a national title in 2002, Ninemire clarified her statement, saying she meant at Cal in softball. The Bears were hosting their first super regional.
Jolene Henderson picked up her second shutout win in as many days (scattering three hits with nine strikeouts and four walks), overcoming a shaky start and a tight strike zone to finish off the win. She threw 35 pitches in the first inning as Washington loaded the bases.
Reid said she was getting frustrated by the tight strike zone and the sticky situation.
"I was telling myself 'If anything comes out here, I'm catching it,'" said Reid, a senior.
She busted after a sinking line drive off the bat of Shawna Wright, diving toward the line and snagging the ball from the cusp of the turf.
Reid was asked how close the ball was to hitting the ground.
"It wasn't going to drop," she said.
Yeah, but how close?
"It wasn't going to drop," she repeated.
Henderson said she thought the catch saved at least three runs. It certainly saved the Bears, leaving an opening for Cordes, not the most likely of home-run hitters.
Cordes, hitting out of the No. 9 spot, belted a Bryana Walker pitch out of the park on a 2-2 count for her seventh homer of the season. She hit it after fellow freshman Breana Kostreba hit a solid single to left center.
Cordes came into the game with a .255 average, the lowest among the Cal starters. Walker admitted she missed her spot and left the ball over the middle of the plate when Cordes took advantage, hitting the ball into the parking lot.
"I just went up there nice and relaxed and I got a pitch right where I like it -- down the middle," Cordes said. "It's the kind of thing I dreamt about before I got here. I didn't know it would happen."
Walker was pitching well to that point and had hamstrung the heart of Cal's order, with Valerie Arioto, Frani Echavarria and Jace Williams going a combined 0-for-8.
Unlike Saturday night's windy, cloudy chill in Berkeley, the sun was out on Sunday. And an air of inevitability hung over Levine-Fricke Field.
For the Washington Huskies, it was going to take an extraordinary effort over two games to steal a World Series spot from the Bears, who have been No. 1 for the majority of the season and clearly the class of the Pac-12.
The Bears head into the WCWS with a record of 56-5. Washington's season ends at 39-19 after a 32-1 start.
"We have a lot of youth on this team," said Washington coach Heather Tarr, whose roster includes just four seniors and three juniors. "We put ourselves in a hole and ended up with a 16-seed. Coming here, this was not the ideal setting. If a couple of things fall. ... The best part is we know that we are not far off from where we want to be."
The Bears, meanwhile, are headed to exactly where they want to be, and where they belong: Oklahoma City.