(TALAHASSEE, FLA.) -- No. 14/16 California (36-18) opened NCAA Regional Softball play Friday with an 8-3 win over Mississippi State (28-27) at JoAnne Graff Field on the campus of Florida State University. The Golden Bears fell behind, 3-0, after an inning and a half before storming back with eight unanswered runs. The victory advanced Cal to a second round Regional game Saturday against Oklahoma State after the Cowgirls knocked off top-seeded tournament host No. 16/20 Florida State, 1-0, in Friday’s second game.
Sanoe Kekahuna (2-2, 2 HR, 2 RBI) blasted a pair of solo home runs for the Bears, while Elia Reed also went deep with a solo shot.
“I was excited to help out my team with the two homers,” said a humble Kekahuna.
Jamia Reid was 4-for-4 with a triple, stolen base and two runs scored but was also caught stealing on her second attempt to steal to snap a string of 27 consecutive stolen base attempts.
“I felt like I was seeing the ball well today, and doing whatever I could to get on base,” said Jamia Reid.
Marissa Drewrey (22-10) tossed a complete game to earn the victory, scattering 10 hits and blanking the Bulldogs over the final five frames after giving up three runs (two earned) in the first two innings. Drewrey struck out five and walked one.
“I really just dug down deep and my defense also really helped me out over the last five innings,” said Drewrey. “Plus, it always feels great when your offense comes through like we did today.”
“I was pleased with Marissa’s composure tonight,” said Cal head coach Diane Ninemire. “A lot of times when a defense comes out like we did tonight, a pitcher can get down on themselves very easily. But she kept her composure and kept getting better as the game went on.”
Mississippi State jumped out to an early 3-0 lead by scoring once in the first inning and twice more in the second. Ali Bainbridge put the Bulldogs ahead, 1-0, in the top of the first when she singled home Brittany Bell after she had walked earlier in the inning. The Bulldogs made it 3-0 in the second by taking advantage of an error on Cal centerfielder Frani Echavarria. Courtney Nesbit started the rally with a one-out double and pinch-runner Allie Helon scored two batters later on a clutch two-out RBI single by Chelsea Bramlett, who would come also come all the way around to score on the play when the ball went through Echavarria’s legs on her attempt to come up and throw Helon out at the plate.
“When you’re playing for the first time in a Regional tournament of this nature, your nerves can kind of show like they did for us tonight in the first two innings,” said Ninemire. “But, I was really happy and pleased with the way we settled down as the game went on. Our speed did its job and our power came up and got some key hits.”
Cal started its comeback in the bottom half of the second when Elia Reid led off the inning with her sixth homer of the year. Kekahuna followed two batters later with the first of her two home runs to cut the Bulldog lead to 3-2.
“It was really nice to make a statement with the two big home runs,” said Ninemire. “That really made a statement that we were here tonight to play and that our players were confident that they could drive the ball.”
Jamia Reid scored the tying run in the bottom of third after leading off the inning with a triple off the glove of a running Mississippi State centerfielder Brittany Gates. She crossed the plate two batters later on a sacrifice fly from Valerie Arioto. Gina Leomiti restarted the rally when she was hit by a pitch with two outs before moving to second on a walk to Elia Reid and scoring the go-ahead run on a clutch two-out RBI single from Taylor Kelly.
The Bears held on to a slim 4-3 lead until scoring four insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth for the final score. Kekahuna’s one-out solo shot started the rally before three consecutive singles from Vernae Sevilla, Echavarria and Jamia Reid loaded the bases. Arioto drew a walk to force in pinch-runner Shannon Houston before two-out single by Leomiti scored Echavarria and Jamia Reid with the game’s final two runs.
Echavarria (2-3) had a two-hit game for the Bears, while Arioto and Leomiti both drove in a pair of runs.
Bramlett (3-4, RBI) had three hits and stole her 54th base of the season for the Bulldogs, while Bell was 2-for-2 and also stole a base.
Bulldog starting pitcher Lindsey Dunlap (17-15) suffered the loss, allowing four runs and five hits over the first 3.0 innings.