By: Hansel Chu, Assistant Sports Editor
The UC Riverside softball team swept the double-header games 16-1 and 6-1 against Cal State Bakersfield on Friday afternoon in Bakersfield. Going into the ball game, the Highlanders sat in fourth place in the Big West Conference standings with one series left in the regular season. The double-header sweep for UCR marked the first time UC Riverside had a winning record in Big West play since 2015.
In the first game of the double-header, junior shortstop Marissa Burk scored the first run of the game on an error from Cal State Bakersfield in the first inning. At the top of the third inning, junior infielder Lauryn Garewal and senior outfielder Haylee Kela slammed back-to-back home runs, giving the Highlanders a 3-0 lead. After back-to-back walks from the Roadrunner pitcher Kirsten Martinez, UCR was in scoring position with players at second and third base. A single down the infield line from sophomore utility player Ally Troche brought home another run. Another walk from the pitcher Martinez sent redshirt junior infielder Max Ortega to the home plate and brought the score to 5-0. Moments later, a single from senior outfielder Nadia Witt brought home two scores and extended the UC Riverside lead 7-0. Martinez was then subbed out for pitcher Kaycie Kennedy to stop the offensive outburst from the Highlanders. However, even Kennedy couldn’t stop the offensive onslaught as she immediately walked Kela for another run for UCR. After a wild pitch from Kennedy, Witt raced to the home plate for another UC Riverside run and ballooned the lead to 9-0. Soon after, a single from redshirt sophomore catcher Jantzen Owen scored in another run before Kela was tagged at home plate trying to get another run, which ended the inning for UC Riverside. During the top of the third inning, the Highlanders exploded for nine runs in five hits.
More of the same continued in the top of the fourth inning as a double from Witt brought in two runs for UCR and extended the lead to 12-0. After a wild pitch, freshman infielder Taylor Burdette reached home plate to bring the score to 13-0. Moments later, Ortega crushed a three-run home run into the left field to increase the Highlander lead to 16-0. Cal State Bakersfield was finally able to score in the bottom of the fifth inning as third baseman Maya Williams hit a home run to put the Roadrunners on the board 16-1. A strikeout from senior pitcher Chrys Hildebrand ended the game with UC Riverside winning the first game 16-1. Hildbrand nearly had a perfect game with 5.0 innings pitched. She allowed only one run, one hit and had 11 strikeouts. Witt led the Highlanders in batting with a 4 RBI in two hits and had two runs.
In the second game, both teams started off a bit slow as the fatigue of the double-header started to kick in. In the bottom of the third inning, the Roadrunners were able to get on the scoreboard first as catcher Jocelynn Molina was able to steal home base and give Cal State Bakersfield the lead 1-0. However, the Highlanders exploded in the top of the fourth inning as they amassed five total runs. It started with a single down the right center from Troche to bring home Ortega to tie the game 1-1. A single from Burdette down the center field brought home another run and gave UC Riverside the lead 2-1. After a groundout from Witt, Troche raced toward home plate and scored another run for UCR. Back-to-back doubles from Garewal and Kela brought in two scores for the Highlanders and pushed their lead to 5-1.
In the top of the sixth inning, a single from Garewal down the center field brought Burdette to the home plate and extended the UCR lead 6-1. A quick three-up, three-down inning from redshirt senior pitcher Katie Barbarick retired the inning and gave UC Riverside the victory 6-1 and swept the double-header games.
Barbarick in 7.0 innings pitched allowed only one run, five hits and had two strikeouts. Garewal led the Highlanders in batting as she had an RBI double in two hits and had one run. Burdette also contributed with an RBI single with three hits and one run.
The Highlanders closed off the regular season with a 25-24 record (15-11) and finished fourth in the Big West Conference standings.