No. 1 California will be making its 12th Women's College World Series appearance come May 31 after taking down the 2009 champs, No. 16 Washington, 2-0 Sunday night to win the Berkeley Super Regional, in many thanks to freshman Cheyenne Cordes' two-run homer and Jolene Henderson's nine-strikeout, three-hit attack.
Cal joins fellow Pac-12 schools Oregon and Arizona State in the eight-team WCWS lineup, along with three SEC teams, Alabama, Tennessee and LSU and Oklahoma (Big 12) and first-timers South Florida (Big East). It's double elimination play in bracket and best-of-3 in the championship series.
In bracket 1, Cal will play LSU (39-23) on Thursday, May 31 at 3:30 p.m. ET. In bracket 2, Arizona State and Oregon will battle on Thursday as well at 9:30 p.m. ET.
"I would say that this is probably the biggest win in Cal history for softball (in Berkeley) that everyone got to witness today, this team coming out here and beating a very, very strong University of Washington team," said Cal head coach Diane Ninemire.
"Jolene (Henderson) threw every inning of this regional tournament and did an outstanding job. It was a total team effort by defense, by offense - different people coming through throughout the whole journey, and I'm just so proud of their effort and their willingness to stick together as a team and fight through every adversity that we went through the last couple of weeks."
The Huskies (39-19), the home team on Cal's field, came out in the bottom of the first when Victoria Hayward led off with an eight-pitch walk, senior Nikia Williams singled and senior Kimi Pohlman earned four balls to load the bases with just one out. But, Cal's defense was strong. Danielle Henderson caught Hooch Fagaly's hit and Jamia Reid made a sliding catch on Shawna Wright's potential three-run hit.
After that inning Jolene Henderson (36-2) didn't allow a Washington ball in the outfield.
"I think we went through a lot of adversity, especially in the first couple of innings, and I think it's just going to make our team so much stronger because we fought through that," said Jolene Henderson. "Especially in the first inning when Jamia (Reid) came up and made this phenomenal play - which I was so happy about her making....We fought hard together, and it was a total team effort for this game."
The Golden Bears (56-4) got in on the offensive action in the top of the fifth when Breana Kostreba hit a single up the middle, Elia Reid pinch ran at first and with a 2-2 count and two out Cordes drilled her seventh home run of the season over the scoreboard for a 2-0 Cal lead.
"I just went up to the plate nice and relaxed, because if you go up there pressing then you normally mess up," said Cordes. "I just went up there nice and relaxed, looking for my pitch and she gave me my pitch ... (which was) right down the middle."
For Washington, Williams led with two hits, while Pohlman had one. On the mound sophomore Bryana Walker (10-6) threw 6.0 innings for two earned runs on five hits, three walks and two strikeouts. Sophomore Kaitlin Inglesby came in for relief in the final inning.
It was the final game for four Husky seniors: Williams, Pohlman, Jenna Clifton and Taylor Smith. The seniors combined for all three Husky hits in the game.
"The worst part about this is that the season is over," said Washington head coach Heather Tarr. "The season is over for four great seniors, but I am excited because our team has a lot of youth and for us to actually have two pitchers emerge out of this season, that is exciting for our future.
"For us to come down here, we kind of put ourselves in the hole, being the 16 seed and having to come down here to play Cal. It is what it is, it is not the ideal setting, but we were ready to compete and today was a great day for us. It is a game of inches and a couple things didn't fall for us, but we competed and that's all we can ask."
10 YEARS LATER
If California wins the 2012 National Championship it will have been 10 years since the Golden Bears won under Ninemire beating Arizona 6-0. They were also runner-ups in 2003 and 2004, losing to UCLA both games 1-0 and 3-1, respectively.