May 15, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The opening game of the 2009 NCAA Softball Tallahassee Regional between Cal (36-18) and Mississippi State (28-27) was a see-saw battle early-on but the Bears four-run sixth inning ended up being too much for the Bulldogs to handle as Cal moved on in the winners’ bracket following the opening game of an NCAA Regional for the fourth straight season. Cal’s Sanoe Kekahuna, a sophomore from Maui, HI, was the offensive star of the game as she hit her 10th and 11th homeruns of the year as the Bears went deep three times on their way to an 8-3 victory.
Both teams were able to pound out double digit hits but it was Cal’s timely hitting and Marissa Drewrey’s strong performance down the stretch inside the circle that were the difference. Drewrey (22-10) allowed three runs in the first two innings but she shutdown the Mississippi State offense from the third inning on as the Bulldogs could muster just three hits in the third through six innings when the game was still in the balance. The loss dropped MSU to 28-27 on the season and they will now await the result of the Florida State/Oklahoma State game to see which team they will face in Saturday’s elimination game.
The Bulldogs started hot and broke on top in the first. Mississippi State put runners on second and third with one out when cleanup hitter Sammie Jo Bailey delivered an RBI single up the middle plating Brittany Bell from third. It was the 24th RBI of the season for Bailey and the 25th run scored of the season for Bell.
In the second, Courtney Nesbit helped extend the MSU lead with a one-out double, her ninth of the year. Allie Heon was inserted to run for Nesbit at second and then a key outfield error led to two runs for the Bulldogs. Chelsea Bramlett, who led off the game with a hit, laced a shot into center for an RBI single but the ball got past the Bear centerfielder and rolled all the way to the wall allowing Heon to score from second and Bramlett to come home with the third run of the game for MSU.
Cal’s Elia Reid brought the Bears within a couple runs as she opened the bottom of the second with a solo homerun. The round-tripper was the sixth of the season for Reid. After MSU starting pitcher Lindsay Dunlap (17-15) retired the next batter, Cal once again used the long ball to cut the score as Kekahuna hit her 10th homer of the year to make it a 3-2 game.
In the bottom of the third Cal clawed its way into the lead. Valerie Arioto plated the tying run with a sacrifice fly evening the game at 3-3. The RBI was the team-leading 35th of the year for the Bear first baseman. The Bears then took their first lead of the game as Taylor Kelly sent a single through the left side of the infield that scored designated player Gina Leomiti making it a 4-3 game.
Brittany Gates led off the fourth inning by reaching base on a hit by pitch. She stole second and then moved to third on a bunt single by Bramlett, her second of the game. Bramlett took off for second as Gates broke for home but the Bulldog centerfielder was gunned down at the plate as catcher Kekahuna blocked the plate and applied the tag preserving Cal’s lead.
Kelsey Nurnberg took over inside the circle for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the fourth and despite giving up two singles, her catcher kept her out of trouble. Bramlett threw out two would-be base stealers in the inning and for the first time neither team was able to put up a run in an inning.
After two-and-a-half innings without a run being scored, Kekahuna hit her second homer of the day and Cal’s third homerun of the game as she took a Nurnberg offering over the left field wall extending the Cal lead to 5-3. The Bears weren’t done scoring as they loaded the bases with just one away. Nurnberg got the second out on a shallow pop fly but she walked Valerie Arioto to push Cal’s sixth run across. Gina Leomiti then added to the lead with a single to right plating two more Cal runs and pushing the score to 8-3.
Mississippi State Head Coach Jay Miller
“I thought we came out good and put some points on the board early. We just didn’t have the fixing to hold them down. They got the hits when they needed them. We sort of stalled a little bit offensively. We have to keep putting the pressure on them if we are going to be successful.”
California Head Coach Diane Ninemire:
"I thought we had some nerves in the first game that was obvious. We have some freshmen out here that are playing for the first time in a regional tournament of this nature. I think their nerves showed in the first few innings. I am really happy and pleased how we settled down as the game went on and our speed did the job and our power came up and got some key hits. Tomorrow it doesn't matter who we play. All the teams here are very good and we need to come out and play our best. We just hope we come out and do our job."