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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Louisville softball loses to California 3-0...


Cal Bears pitcher Jolene Henderson shuts out
 UofL softball for the second day in a row.
-Cards fall to Bears 3-0

-The NCAA Tournament at a glance

-Vonk came a long way to be a Bear

Different day, same result. California pitcher Jolene Henderson got her second shutout over UofL in 24 hours with a 3-0 whitewash of the Cardinals. The Cards did have more hits today than California in the loss...but couldn't push home the base runners to the plate. Cal took a 1-0 in the second when a costly throwing error by Chelsea Bemis on an attempted putout at first led to a Bears score. They tacked on a second run in the fourth when a wild pitch by Louisville starting pitcher Tori Collins allowed Frani Echavarria to score from third base. They added an insurance run in the fifth when a Jace Williams single to center plated Jamia Reid.

Louisville had their chances, especially in the final three innings. The Cards got back to back singles in the bottom of the fifth from Taner Fowler and Kristin Austin  to have runners at the corners with no outs. Henderson got Katie Keller to pop up in foul territory for an out, though...a fielder's choice by Jennifer Esteban moved pinch runner Tesha Payton to second...but Fowler couldn't score on the play. Chelsea Bemis lifted a long fly to center next...but Echavarria caught up with it for the third out.

Louisville tried again in the sixth to dent the scoreboard. Alicja Wolny smashed a double to the wall in right center. Chelsea Jordan came in as a pinch runner and got to third after a Colby Wherry single. A groundout by Maggie Ruckenbrod sent Wherry to second but Jordan couldn't score on the play. Once again, Henderson pitched her way out of the trouble by sending Hannah Kiyohara back to the dugout on strikeouts.

Collins pitched well enough to win...and the Cards were getting to Henderson in the late innings but it's the most runs that wins you the game and the Bears capitalized when they needed to. Louisville left five runners in scoring position in the last two innings...and that proved to be the key stat of the game.

The game was stopped before the seventh inning began because of severe weather headed in the ballpark's direction and lighting strikes. We took cover in the hospitality room and got the chance to run into UofL Marketing's Adrienne Johnson. Always good to see A.J. with the bright smile and she reports that her Mom is doing well and hanging in there.

Louisville came back out after the delay and did get a bottom of the seventh inning single from Katie Keller but Jolene Henderson then retired Esteban, Bemis and Wolny in a row to get the win.

Louisville outhit Cal with eight hits to five for the Bears. Wherry and Austin had two each for the Cards..but UofL left nine base runners in the game...California eight. Tori Collins struck out 10 Bears batters, a new UofL record in NCAA Tournament play...but Henderson topped her again...sending 11 UofL batters back to the dugout after strike three.


-Cardinal shortshop Colby Wherry on Henderson:

"She's really good. She was working really hard with her change-up today..more than yesterday. She knew what to throw and she had a great game."

-California pitcher Jolene Henderson on UofL's scoring threats:

"I like to make things interesting. I don't really get too concerned. Our offense was on today and got runs early. I still felt in control...even when there were runners on base. I don't get too worried because I know what I can do and I don't doubt myself or my teammates at all."

Despite not advancing to the Super Regional...a good season, nevertheless...for Sandy Pearsall's squad. Strong pitching and hitting return for Louisville next year and the only starters leaving are from the left side of the Bemis and Wherry. A mighty loss, granted...but you can't keep them forever. Bemis and Wherry accomplished a lot of great things in their four years as Cardinals...and will go on to do great things after graduation...

64 go in, 16 advance. None of them from the BIG EAST. The University of Kentucky advances out of the South Bend regional and will get the California Bears and Jolene Henderson. They join SEC members Georgia, Alabama and Florida in the Sweet Sixteen. Besides California, the PAC 10 sends Stanford, Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State into the Super Regionals..six out of the 10 schools in the conference...which is pretty amazing when you stop to think about it. Also well represented is the BIG 12...Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Missouri and Texas A&M. Five schools out of that conference. Houston also advances...from C-USA.

Here's the way the Super Regionals set up:

At Tempe, AZ....#1 Arizona State vs #16 Texas A&M

At Tucson, AZ...#8 Arizona vs. #9 Oklahoma

At Columbia, MO...#5 Missouri vs. #12 Washington

At Gainesville, FL...#4 Florida vs. #13 Oregon

At Stillwater, OK...Oklahoma State vs. Houston

At Athens, GA...#6 Georgia vs. #11 Baylor

At Lexington. KY...Kentucky vs. #5 California

At Tuscaloosa, AL....#2 Alabama vs #15 Stanford

Some surprises along the way as the teams are down to 16 now. UCLA sent to the sidelines - after a 33-17 season - by #4 Florida. #10 Michigan and #14 Tennessee both hosting regionals and not advancing. It is abundantly clear that the power conferences of NCAA Division I college softball are the PAC 10, Big 12 and SEC. 15 of the 16 Super Regional teams are from these three. The BIG EAST had four teams participate...but Notre Dame was tossed out by Kentucky, DePaul sent home by Missouri and Syracuse by LSU.

California, despite winning the Louisville regional and being ranked #5 in the nation...must play the Super Regional on the road in Lexington against Kentucky. The reason? Their softball facilities don't meet NCAA requirements for hosting a Super Regional. Seating the major issue. No worries, though...for the Bears. Head coach Diane Ninemire...who told reporters on Friday night that her team was used to being a road team and would not be affected or intimidated by having to travel after advancing. Truly a shame that the University of California can't come up with the means or funding to build a suitable facility for the #5 team in the nation that plays in one of the best, if not the best, conferences in college women's softball. Coach Ninemire was effusive in her praise for Ulmer Stadium and the way that host Louisville ran the regional.

There wasn't much of a Bears fan contingent in the stands at Ulmer Stadium for the tournament...but they were a vocal group. Leading the cheers and chants was California starters and twins Jamia and Elia Reid's mom...dancing and exhorting for her daughters and the Bears each and every inning. Almost 500 attended the final game on Sunday, maybe 20 of them were Bears fans, but they put on a show and were active in cheering on their team.


California freshman shortstop Brit Vonk is only one of two Bears that isn't from California. She hails from Enschede, Netherlands and playing softball and studying in the United States has always been a dream of hers. Why did she choose Berkeley, California?

Brit Vonk has proved to be a impact player in her
freshman year at Cal. The Netherlands import
is one of the fastest players on a speedy Bears team.
"I chose Cal because of the history and reputation of the school. The combination of both and Coach Ninemire made it an easy choice for me. I also discovered when arriving here that the San Francisco area is quite similar to the geographical makeup of hometown... and that has helped.." Vonk relates.

Vonk played on the 2008 Netherlands Olympic team and was on the Dutch National championship team in
2010 with the Tex Town Tigers. Her father played professional soccer in the Netherland, her mom played professional water polo and her brother plays professional soccer. She spent a year living in Spain when her father was a soccer coach for a Spanish team.

She arrived from the Netherlands a day before freshman orientation... and the jet-lag and newness of her surroundings had her in a bit of a quandry at first.

"I remember walking around campus, not knowing anybody or anything and thinking to myself...'What am I doing here?'"

Her teammates made up for that in a hurry and even incorporate Dutch cheers and chants in between innings in the dugout. Teammate Jace Williams confides:

"Some of the Dutch words...they're a little bit difficult for us to pronounce, but we give it our best shot...and we get some looks from opponents."

Vonk reports her team's success back to family and friends in Enschede but laments:

"I tell them that we beat UCLA in a series and they say...'That's nice...what is a UCLA?'"

No wooden shoes for this infield specialist...she's started in all 51 game this season for Cal...batting .416 on the season and having the highest team slugging percentage at .516. Vonk has scored 43 runs for the Bears this season and stole 26 base in 31 attempts. She also has drawn a team high 26 walks and produced 62 hits. This little Dutch girl plugs the hole quite well for Cal on the left side of the infield...We at CARDINAL COUPLE will be Bears fans in the Super Regional and hope that they can eliminate the Kentucky Wildcats.
Tough to envision a trip to Lexington to watch softball for us...but we'll be cheering for Cal and hope to catch the action on one of the thousands of ESPN networks out there. Paul, a huge Bears fan (Chicago, that is) has vowed to wear his BEARS hat and t-shirt each time they play. No Ditka or Cutler...but "Da Bears" will win...according to him.

(Parts of this article are from the California Bears official softball website and
Graham Hays @ .

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