The 16th-seeded Huskies (39-18) must now beat the Bears (54-5) twice Sunday to reach the Women's College World Series next week in Oklahoma City.
BERKELEY, Calif. — All of the momentum Washington ace Kaitlin Inglesby established during last week’s NCAA Seattle Regional was nullified with one powerful swing by California’s Valerie Arioto on Saturday night.
Arioto, a National Player of the Year candidate, hit a booming two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, and top-seeded Cal rode strong pitching by Jolene Henderson the rest of the way for a 5-0 victory in Game 1 of the NCAA Super Regionals.
The 16th-seeded Huskies (39-18) must now beat the Bears (54-5) twice Sunday to reach the Women’s College World Series next week in Oklahoma City.
Inglesby pitched a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 win over Harvard last week to open the Seattle Regional. Two other Washington starters helped follow with shutouts to give the Huskies renewed confidence after a dismal second half of the regular season.
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But Arioto, who ranks in the top five nationally in slugging percentage, on-base percentage, walks and runs, cranked a 1-1 pitch from Inglesby that cleared the bleachers in right-center field.
“She did what she should have done with that pitch,” Inglesby said. “I tip my cap to her.”
Two batters later, Jace Williams — who played her freshman season at UW before transferring to Cal — launched one into the last row of the right-center-field seats to make it 3-0.
“I’m just glad we won Game 1 of the Super Regional,” Williams said. “They (Huskies) are a great squad. Kaitlin is a great pitcher. We just have to come out tomorrow and do what we did today.”
Cal added two runs without registering a hit in the fourth. Inglesby began the inning by hitting Breana Kostreba with a pitch. Pinch-runner Elia Reid went to second base on a sacrifice and advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Victoria Jones walked and stole second, Cheyenne Cordes hit a bouncer to shortstop.
The Huskies’ Courtney Gano elected to come home with the ball, but Reid beat the throw easily. Jamie Reid plated another run with a ground out to second base.
Trailing 5-0, UW threatened to make a game of it in the fifth. It loaded the bases with one out on a single by Shawna Wright and walks to Hooch Fagaly and Victoria Hayward. But Nikia Williams bounced into a 1-2-3 double play to end the uprising. Williams also flied out to right with the bases loaded to end the game.
Henderson allowed four hits and four walks while striking out 11.
“Offensively, we have more to offer as a team,” UW coach Heather Tarr said. “I thought Jolene pitched a great game today. I also think some of our hitters have to take some more committed at-bats. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”