To break through and hang a loss on California, the path to victory must begin with finding ways to get hits off pitcher Jolene Henderson.
Coming off Pac-10 pitcher of the week honors and sporting a 0.77 earned run average, Henderson has continued to impress during the stretch run for the No. 7-ranked Golden Bears softball team. In the opener of a three-game set at Oregon State on Friday, Henderson was again in top form in a 9-0 shutout victory.
"I think there were a lot of balls thrown on both sides and the weather is always a challenge when you pitch in the rain and moisture," OSU coach Kirk Walker said. "But overall, I think she threw fairly well."
Lea Cavestany, who entered the game with the second-highest batting average among OSU regulars, said Henderson was tough to figure out in the beginning but believes the Beavers can get their bats going the rest of the weekend.
"I realized she was quick-pitching us and I think that got us out of our rhythm for a little bit," Cavestany said. "But I'm pretty sure we'll come back tomorrow easily. She really wasn't pitching anything special."
Walker expects Henderson to throw the remaining two games.
"She threw every inning against UCLA last week and I would expect she would throw," Walker said. "They have another pitcher but obviously it comes down to our ability to make adjustments and get on her. We're going to have to beat her."
OSU starter Tina Andreana looked good early by getting out of a first-inning jam and then setting down the Bears 1-2-3 in the second. In the first, Andreana struck out Cal's Frani Echavarria looking with two on. The next inning, she fanned Ashley Decker and then got two groundouts.
Cal (35-9, 11-5) put together a big inning in the third, however, by sending 10 batters to the plate and took a 4-0 lead.
"It's really expected because there are great hitters in the Pac-10 so we expect that to happen," Cavestany said about Cal's big fourth inning. "What we couldn't do is hit the ball and score right back at them."
After Andreana walked the first batter in the fifth, Walker brought in Paige Hall. Lindsey Ziegenhirt greeted the OSU junior with a home run, and by the end of the inning Cal held a 7-0 lead. The Bears added two more in the sixth with OSU sophomore Marina Demore pitching.
The Beavers collected just four hits with none of those getting out of the infield. Junior Desiree Beltran went 2 for 2.
The loss dropped OSU to 1-15 in the conference with no hopes of climbing out of the cellar.
Cavestany, who is just a sophomore, said this season's struggles in the Pac-10 have not demoralized the team.
"I think it's definitely making us work continually for next year, if this year is down the drain already," Cavestany said. "But I don't think it's really wearing us down. If anything, it's making us stronger."
(7) California 9, Oregon State 0
CALIFORNIA 004 032 - 9 8 0
OREGON STATE 000 000 - 0 4 0
Henderson and Ziegenhirt. Andreana, Hall (5), Demore (5) and Kutz. WP: Henderson (31-7). LP: Andreana (5-13). 2B: Williams (C), Echavarria (C). HR: Ziegenhirt (C)
Hits: California 8 (J. Reid, Williams 2, Ziegenhirt, Echavarria, Decker, Wallace, E. Reid). OSU 4 (Beltran 2, Chandler, Doremus)
RBIs: California 9 (Williams 2, Ziegenhirt 4, Decker, Henderson 2). OSU 0
TODAY: vs. California, noon
SUNDAY: vs. California, 11 a.m.
WHERE: OSU Softball Complex
RECORDS: No. 7 California 35-9 overall, 11-5 in Pac-10; Oregon State 18-23, 1-15
SERIES: California leads, 69-34