Softball: Arioto’s 2-run walk-off HR in bottom of 7th lifts Bears past ASU; Cal close to Pac-12 title

Pleasanton’s Valerie Arioto’s two-run, walk-off home run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning carried No. 1 Cal (49-3, 20-2 Pac-12) to a 4-2 win over No. 2 Arizona State (45-6, 17-3) to open their three-game series at Levine-Fricke Field in Berkeley.

The Bears can clinch their first outright Pac-12 title since 1987 and likely the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA tournament with a win over the Sun Devils on Friday afternoon.

ASU led 2-0 before Cal scored twice in the bottom of the sixth on consecutive bases-loaded walks to Danielle Henderson and Victoria Jones to tie the score.

In the seventh, Jamia Reid led off with a bunt single and scored when Arioto hit the second pitch for a homer, pushing her single-season school-record total to 22.  

Arioto has 53 career home runs, just two off the all-time record held by Veronica Nelson (2000-03). She also has 183 career RBIs, eight shy of the school record.

Junior Jolene Henderson struck out eight and posted the victory, improving her record to 30-1.

Friday’s game begins at 3 p.m. The teams close the regular season Saturday with a noon game.

The NCAA tournament field will be announced Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.



Softball: Everything you need to start a big weekend for Cal softball

The top-ranked Cal women’s softball team begins a three-game series vs. No. 2 Arizona State on Thursday at Levine-Fricke Field above Memorial Stadium.

Ten years after the Golden Bears won their only national championship in the sport, is this team actually better?

Meanwhile, athletic director Sandy Barbour believes it’s “a no-brainer” that Cal will be chosen Sunday for the first time to host an NCAA regional. “How do you deny the No. 1 team in the country if we meet the criteria?” Barbour said.

Finally, Cal stars Valerie Arioto and Jolene Henderson are finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. Arizona State’s Katelyn Boyd is also among the 11 finalists.


Softball: Bears unanimous No. 1 in both final polls

The Cal women’s softball team picked up the one first-place vote it did not get a week ago and is unanimous at No. 1 in both final regular-season national polls.

Cal (48-3, 19-2 Pac-12) has been ranked atop the country in both the  ESPN.com/USA Softball and USA Today/NFCA poll for seven consecutive weeks. Last week, however, one voter in the USA Today coaches poll declined to pick the Bears No. 1.

They got all 50 votes cast in the two rankings this week, as they close out the regular season at home with a three-game set against No. 2 Arizona State (45-5, 17-2), beginning Thursday.



Golf: Bears top-seeded at Stanford regional

The Cal men’s golf team, ranked No. 2 nationally by Golfstat, has earned a No. 1 seed at the 54-hole May 17-19 NCAA regional at Stanford. Eighty-one teams were chosen to the NCAA tournament, with 13 teams at the Stanford regioinal.

The Bears have qualified for an NCAA regional for the sixth consecutive year after winning their first Pac-12 championship. Stanford is the No. 2 seed in the regional, which also includes San Diego State, USF, San Jose State and UC Davis.

The top five finishers from each of six regionals, plus the low-scoring individual from each who is not part of one of those teams, advance to the NCAA Championships at the Riviera Country Club at Pacific Palisades, May 29 through June 3.



Softball: No. 1 Bears sweep Beavers, set up season-ending showdown with No. 2 ASU

Jolene Henderson struck out 12 batters and pitched a four-hitter, improving to 28-1, as the top-ranked Cal softball team (48-3, 19-2 Pac-12) scored a 4-1 win over Oregon State (33-19, 8-12) at Corvallis, Ore.

The win completes a three-game road sweep and keeps the Bears atop the Pac-12 standings headed into next week’s regular-season-ending three-game series at Berkeley against No. 2 Arizona State (45-5, 17-2), the defending national champion. Game 1 of the series is Thursday at Levine-Fricke Field. First pitch is at 3 p.m.

Lindsey Ziegenhirt hit a two-run homer for the Bears, who managed just three hits.

— BASEBALL: Junior left-hander Justin Jones pitched a complete-game 2-hitter and the Bears (25-19, 9-12) posted a 8-0 win over Washington State (23-20, 9-11) at Pullman, Wash. Jones walked the first batter he faced, then didn’t walk another. He struck out six and retired the final 15 batters he faced. His 23rd career victory tied Jones for fifth on Cal’s career list.

Junior Mitch Delfino was 4 for 5 with a double, raising his average to a team-leading .381. Junior Vince Bruno was 3 for 4 and drove in three runs.



Softball: Bears rout OSU to open series

The top-ranked Cal softball team (46-3, 17-2 Pac-12) rode two-hit pitching from Jolene Henderson and a 3-run homer by her sister, Danielle Henderson, to a 9-1 five-inning victory over Oregon State  (33-17, 8-10) at Corvallis, Ore.

Jolene Henderson improved to 27-1 while her sister homered for the 14th time. Jamia Reid had three hits for the Bears and Frani Echavarria drove in a pair of runs.

Second-ranked Arizona State (43-5. 15-2), which visits Cal next weekend to close the Pac-12 regular season, whipped Utah 13-1 in a five-inning game to stay on the Bears’ heels.

— BASEBALL: The Bears (23-19, 7-12) fell 10-4 at Washington State, their fourth straight defeat. Andrew Knapp homered for Cal and Vince Bruno went 3 for 5. Three Cal pitchers allowed 11 hits and seven walks. 




Softball: Bears 1 vote from perfect in 2 polls

The Cal women’s softball team is ranked atop both national polls for the sixth consecutive week.

This time, only the vote of a single college coach prevented the Bears (45-3) from being unanimous No. 1 in both sets of rankings.

Cal collected 29 of 30 first-place votes in the USA Today/NFCA top-25, with No. 2 Arizona State securing the other first-place ballot. Alabama and Oklahoma are third and fourth, respectively.

In the ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings, Cal grabbed all 20 votes, with ASU again checking in second, followed by Oklahoma and Alabama.

Eight Pac-12 teams are in the ESPN top-25, seven in the USA Today poll. But a look at the NCAA’s official RPI computer rankings suggests that neither human poll gives the Pac-12 enough credit.

The RPI includes eight Pac-12 teams in its top 25, including four in the top 10 and six in the top 15.

Here’s how the computer rankings place the best Pac-12 teams: 1. Cal; 2. ASU; 7. Oregon; 10. Arizona; 13. UCLA; 15. Washington; 22. Stanford; 23. Oregon State.

Here’s the ESPN poll: 1. Cal; 2. ASU; 12. Oregon; 13. Arizona; 15. Washington; 17. UCLA; 21. Stanford; 22. OSU.

And the USA Today poll: 1. Cal; 2. ASU; 13. Oregon; 14. Washington; 15. Arizona; 17. UCLA; 19. Stanford. (OSU is not ranked).


Track and field: Maier excels at Payton Jordan

Cal junior Deborah Maier had a night to remember on Sunday at Stanford’s Payton Jordan Invitational.

Maier ran the 10,000 meters in 32 minutes, 12.47 seconds to shatter a 27-year-old school record and claim the second-fastest American collegiate time in history, third fastest by any collegiate woman.

She finished 12th in a race that featured veteran international runners and produced six Olympic “A” qualifying marks. Only two collegiate runners have clocked better times — former Iowa State runner Lisa Koll and Kenyan Sally Kipyego, formerly of Texas Tech. 

Meanwhile, one-time Cal star and 1,500-meter specialist David Torrence ran a lifetime best of 13:16.53 and earned an Olympic “A” qualifying mark while finishing seventh in the 5,000 meters.

The meet generated five 2012 world-leading times and a total of 28 Olympic “A” qualifiers, including 25 in the men’s and women’s 5,000 and 10,000 races.



Softball: No. 1 Bears complete sweep of Bruins

Jolene Henderson overcame allowing two home runs to improve to 26-1 as top-ranked Cal (45-3, 16-2 Pac-12) finished off a three-game weekend sweep of UCLA (33-15, 9-9) with a 10-3 win at Levine-Fricke Field.

Cal trailed 2-0 after the top of the first, then scored eight runs over the next three innings to take charge. Jace Williams drove in three runs and Cheyenne Cordes a pair for the Bears.

— BASEBALL: The Bears (23-18, 7-11 Pac-12) were swept on the road after No. 9 Oregon (30-13, 14-7) posted a 7-1 victory. Chadd Krist doubled for the Bears, tying the Bears’ career record of 61.