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Pac-12 Softball Recap: Cal No. 1 for Fourth Straight Week

The California Golden Bears might have dropped their first Pac-12 game and home game of the season this past weekend against Arizona, but for the fourth straight week they are ranked as the top contender in the USA Today/NFCA poll from April 17, 2012. The Golden Bears earned 24 first-place votes and SEC opponent Alabama, ranked second, earned six.

Not only is California 39-2 overall and 11-1 in conference, but it is also in the top 10 of six Division I softball statistical categories: second in win-loss percentage (0.951), fourth in fielding percentage (0.979), tied for fourth with UCLA in home runs per game (1.51), fifth in slugging percentage (0.562), tied for fifth with UCLA in scoring (7.12) and sixth in batting average (0.337).

Cal beat Saint Mary's 9-0 on April 11 in a one-game non-conference stint and followed up in its series against Arizona with a 2-0 win, an 8-3 loss that broke its 15-game winning streak and a 6-0 win to end the weekend.

In the 8-3 drop, Cal was down 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth before Breana Kostreba tied it 2-all on a two-run homer that brought Jace Williams across the plate. In the top of the sixth Arizona made it a 7-2 game after scoring five runs on four hits and one Cal error. In the seventh Arizona edged its score to 8-2, but Cal's Frani Echavarria answered in the bottom with an RBI single to score Cheyenne Cordes.

Echavarria led Cal in hits with two, but Cal was outhit by Arizona 13-3. The loss was the first of the season for Cal pitcher Valerie Arioto, who threw 5.1 innings and allowed eight hits, four runs, three earned, two walks, six strikeouts, one wild pitch and one hit by pitch.

Next Cal is set to host Santa Clara for a single game on April 18 at 3:00 p.m. PT. Cal will resume Pac-12 action on April 20 for a weekend series at Oregon.

After sweeping UCLA last week, No. 4 Arizona State went 1-for-2 at Oregon State, with the final game being cancelled because of poor weather. ASU lost the first meeting 4-2 in nine innings but took the second match in a 3-2 come-from-behind win.

ASU was down 1-0 in the bottom of the second and three scoreless innings passed before the Wildcats ripped three in the top of the sixth for the lead.

Alix Johnson walked, moved to third with back-to-back groundouts, Haley Steele reached and Amber Freeman then homered her seventh of the year to plate everyone, tying her career-high in RBI's. Oregon State answered in the bottom of the seventh when Madison Bundy scored with bases loaded, but in the one-run game ASU pitcher Dallas Escobedo came on the mound and recorded the final out with a strikeout.

Hillary Bach improved to a perfect 17-0 in the dirt for Arizona State, after tossing 6.2 innings. She earned two strikeouts while allowing two earned runs on eight hits.

Next Arizona State will host the Stanford Cardinal April 20 to 22.

The No. 9 Washington Huskies, down two spots, went 2-for-5 in meetings at Oregon (April 10 to 11) and against UCLA (April 13 to 15). The Huskies fell 5-3 but won 6-3 in nine innings at Oregon. Against UCLA they lost 7-5 and 5-0 before coming back to win the final game 5-2.

UW's Kaitlin Inglesby (18-6) started all three games against UCLA and won the series finale, throwing a complete game with nine strikeouts, two shy of a career-best. Inglesby allowed just two runs on four hits. Out of the circle she also helped the Huskies in the 5-2 win at the plate with one hit and a team-leading three RBI.

The Huskies got on board first, plating five in the bottom of the fifth, with Marki Creger-Zier, Jerrin Fa'asua, Kimi Pohlman, Victoria Hayward and Nikia Williams all scoring. UCLA scored two runs in the top of the sixth, but the Huskies threw out Dani Yudin at second to end the game.

"Losing two in a row is not something we ever want to do but coming back the third day and winning is a good feeling," Nikia Williams said.

Next Washington will play at Oregon State April 20 for a weekend series.

No. 13 Arizona swept Utah 8-0 (six innings), 3-1 and 4-2 on April 10 and 11 and followed with a 1-for-3 performance against California April 13 to 15, handing Cal its first Pac-12 and home loss of the season. The Cats lost 2-0, won 8-3 and dropped the final 6-0.

Both the Cats' offense and defense proved themselves in their win. Shelby Babcock allowed just three runs on three hits in her complete game and at the plate the Wildcats hit 13 - the most since their 16-hit game against San Jose State on March 19, 2011.

Arizona held a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth before Cal tied it 2-all in the bottom, which stuck until the top of the sixth when Arizona plated five runners.

Chelsea Goodacre singled and pinch runner Sam Davis came on base. Kristen Arriola then sacrificed Davis to second, Karissa Buchanan's hit put runners on the corners and Hallie Wilson singled for a run. Chelsea Suitos then walked to load the bases, Brigette Del Ponte grounded for another RBI and Shelby Pendley, in the cleanup spot for the first time all season, cleared the bases with a double to give the Wildcats a 7-2 lead.

Each team added one more run in the seventh, but Babcock got Cal's Jamia Reid to ground out to close the game and give Arizona the win.

Next Arizona will host New Mexico in a non-conference double-header on April 18. The Cats will return to Pac-12 play April 27 for a series against Oregon.

No. 15 UCLA improved one ranking after going 2-for-3 in two Pac-12 series.

From April 10 to 11 UCLA lost to Stanford 11-9 before coming back to win the final two games 12-4 (five innings) and 5-2. In its series at Washington from April 13 to 15 UCLA won the first two, 7-5 and 5-0, before falling in the final meeting 5-2.

In UCLA's 5-0 shutout over the Washington Huskies, Jessica Hall struck out a career-high 10 and threw her third complete-game shutout of the season. She held at least one in six of her seven innings and retired the final seven Huskies faced, allowing only four hits and one walk while throwing 115 pitches.

Hall improved to 14-6 on the season, while Washington's Kaitlin Inglesby (4.0 innings pitched) fell to 17-6 with the loss.

Next UCLA will host Cal State Northridge for a non-conference single on April 18 scheduled for 2:00 p.m. PT. UCLA is set to get back in Pac-12 play against Utah on April 20 for a weekend series.

The Stanford Cardinal went 1-for-3 at UCLA April 10 and 11, winning 11-9 before falling 12-4 (five innings) and 5-2. Then they swept Oregon State at home April 13 to 15, 8-4, 7-0 and 8-0 (five innings). Stanford dropped one spot and is currently ranked 16.

In the final of the Oregon State series, Stanford pitcher Teagan Gerhart threw to her third consecutive win and her second straight shutout, standing 27-7 overall with six shutouts on the season. Jenna Becerra also hit her second grand slam - fifth homer of the season - in just two days.

The Cardinal blasted to a 7-0 lead in the top of the first.

Bases were loaded with no outs when Hanna Winter and Leah White knocked back-to-back infield singles and Ashley Hansen drew a walk after being hit by a pitch. Winter then scored when Jenna Rich walked, Maya Burns followed with a single to plate White and Cassandra Roulund singled to center to score Hansen. On the mound, OSU's Tina Andreana was replaced with Aryn Feickert, but that didn't stop Stanford. Against Feickert, Becerra hit a grand slam over the left field fence to make a 7-0 game.

The Cardinal scored again in the bottom of the fourth when Rich doubled to center to plate White from first and run-rule the Beavers.

Next Stanford is set to play a non-conference single game at San Jose State on April 17 at 4:00 p.m. PT. Stanford will resume Pac-12 action on April 20 for a weekend series at Arizona State.

No. 18 Oregon, up one, split a series against Washington (April 10 and 11), winning 5-3 but falling 6-3, and then earned its first Pac-12 sweep of the season after taking down Utah 9-0, 6-2 and 11-1 April 13 to 15.

In its 6-2 win over Utah, Oregon took the first lead, 3-0, in the top of the second after Christie Nieto and Alexa Peterson hit back-to-back solo home runs and three singles scored the third. Utah came within one run in the bottom of the second, scoring from first and third after a bad throw by the shortstop, but Utah wasn't able to tag home plate again like the Ducks. Oregon added two in the fifth on a two-run homer by Nieto and one in the sixth on a bunt single by Allie Burger.

Nieto was 2-for-2 with a team-leading three RBI and two walks. Samantha Pappas led with three hits.

Next Oregon is set to host Portland State on April 18 for a single non-conference game scheduled for 3:00 p.m. PT. Oregon will resume Pac-12 play April 20 when it hosts California for a weekend series.

The Oregon State Beavers dropped out of the rankings from No. 25 after going 1-for-5 in their last two Pac-12 series. OSU beat Arizona State 4-2 (nine innings) on April 10 but fell 3-2 in the finale and then were swept by Stanford 8-4, 7-0 and 8-0 (five innings) from April 13 to 15.

But OSU's two-run win over Arizona State, which was ranked No. 3 at the time, was the first since 2008 that OSU defeated a top-five team. Four years ago they beat then No. 3 UCLA, 5-3.

OSU scored first in the bottom of the fifth inning when Desiree Beltran earned an RBI, her 23rd of the season. But Arizona State plated two in the top of the seventh off a single and an OSU error.

Down 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, OSU's Elizabeth Santana hit a solo home run to right for the 2-all tie. The eighth was scoreless, but with Santana up at-bat in the bottom of the ninth she drove in the two winning runs on her second homer of the game and fourth of the season earning a team-leading three RBI.

Oregon State head coach Kirk Walker said, "It was definitely a team win. We played really good defense and we pitched very well and did some good things. Offensively we capitalized on the opportunities that we had to. We didn't have a ton of runners on, but we capitalized when we needed to."

Next Oregon State is scheduled to host Washington the weekend of April 20.

The Utah Utes have yet to win a Pac-12 game this season, having lost their Arizona series April 10 and 11, 8-0 (five innings), 3-1 and 4-2 and then against Oregon April 13 to 15, 9-0, 6-2 and 11-1 (six innings).

In Utah's 6-2 loss to Oregon, the Utes came within one run in the bottom of the second for a 3-2 game when Kate Dickman and Marissa Mendenhall scored when Oregon's first baseman was off the base for a throw. But, Oregon added two in the top of the fifth and one in the sixth and Utah couldn't add any more.

Next the Utes travel to Los Angeles for an April 20 series at UCLA.

Standings: Conference, Overall

California: 11-1, 39-2

Arizona State: 8-2, 36-5

Oregon: 8-5, 29-9

Arizona: 8-7, 29-12

UCLA: 6-6. 29-12

Washington: 6-8, 35-9

Stanford: 6-9, 32-12

Oregon State: 4-7, 27-14

Utah: 0-12, 23-18