February 10, 2012
California senior Valerie Arioto has been on the shelf for more than a year after breaking her leg on the second day of practice last year, but one of the nation's best women's softball players came back with a bang in the No. 3 Bears' season opener against No. 9 Tennessee, drilling two home runs in rout to a 13-5 win.
The fifth-year senior hammered her 32nd and 33rd homers of her career -- including a shot to center field in her very first at-bat -- as Cal pulled away late over the Lady Vols in Tempe, Ariz., behind a complete game from starter Jolene Henderson, who allowed nine hits and five runs while striking out five and walking eight.
The Bears start the road to Oklahoma City with a 1-0 record while Tennessee falls to 1-1.
Senior third baseman Jace Williams and true freshman catcher Danielle Henderson -- behind the plate for her big sister Jolene -- also chipped in with circuit shots, as Cal clawed back from an early 3-1 deficit.
After Arioto's 3-1 homer in the top of the first put the Bears on top, the Vols came back with a vengeance in the bottom of the frame. Senior Tennessee third baseman Ashley Andrews laid down a bunt single to lead off the frame, and was followed by a full-count walk to Lauren Gibson from Henderson, who then surrendered a soft line-drive single into left off the bat of Madison Shipman and issued a walk to Cheyanne Tarango to plate the Vols' first run of the game. An infield single from Shelby Burchell brought Gibson home and put Tennessee up 3-1.
Cal tied things up in the top of the second thanks to a bases-loaded passed ball on Vols catcher Hannah Akamine and then a wild pitch from starter Ivy Renfroe.
Tennessee added another run in the bottom of the second to take the lead, but following a walk to Arioto in the top of the third, Williams struck with her first longball of the season and the fourth of her career, putting one out to left center. Freshman shortstop Cheyenne Cordes -- making the first start of her Cal career -- worked a walk, and then Danielle Henderson crushed a four-bagger to right.
In the top of the fourth, designated player Britt Vonk worked a walk, and rode home on Arioto's second blast of the game -- over not only the outfield fence, but a second fence behind that.
It was all but academic by the top of the seventh, as the Bears added another trio of runs on run-scoring hits from Cordes, pinch-hitter Lindsey Ziegenhirt and a near-homer by Frani Echavarria, which glanced off the top railing of the outfield wall and bounced back in for an RBI single to plate Cordes.
On Saturday, the Bears play their first doubleheader of the season with an 8 a.m. PT game against Bradley and a 10:30 a.m. PT match-up with Texas State.
The Bears now hold a 4-0 all-time record with the Vols ... Danielle Henderson notched her first homer in a Bear uniform ... Cordes, Danielle Henderson and Breana Kostreba made their first Cal starts ... The last time the two teams met, which was Feb. 26, 2005, Cal was the top team in the country while Tennessee was ranked fifth.