Before the Fresno State softball team took the field against an undefeated Cal team Sunday, coach Trisha Ford challenged her players to come out attacking offensively.
Ford knew Cal had a tendency to jump on opponents and she didn’t want her Bulldogs to have to work out of an early hole.
Ford’s message was well received as the Bulldogs responded with a season-high 14 hits and quickly built a three-run lead after one inning.
Fresno State’s problem, though, was Cal kept hitting, and the Bulldogs could not keep up.
The Bears racked up 23 hits — including three home runs — to down the Bulldogs 14-9 on the final day of the the Fresno State Kick-Off tournament at Margie Wright Diamond.
Nonetheless, Ford expressed much encouragement after receiving validation that Fresno State could hit against a team like Cal. The Bulldogs finished 3-2 in the three-day tournament.
“This was by far our best game,” Ford said. “The other games, I didn’t think we swung the bats as well. We battled, which is good. This game, it makes me feel good moving forward.
“Offensively, we came out banging. We did a great job attacking the zone, putting some good swings on some pitches.”
There were four lead changes through the first four innings, mostly because of Fresno State’s struggling defense. The Bulldogs committed three errors, struggled to field a couple of infield hits and failed to cover the base in certain situations.
All of which allowed Cal to stay within striking distance, even though Fresno State scored seven runs in the first three innings.
Then with Fresno State up 7-6 in the top of the fourth, Cal broke the game open with six runs off eight hits and one Bulldogs error.
Bulldogs reliever Kiley Shae Aldridge gave up three straight singles, including two hits that never left the infield, and Cal cleanup hitter Cheyenne Cordes followed with a grand slam over the left, center-field wall that put the Bears ahead 10-7. It was the fourth homer of the game and third by Cal.
“This is a big-girl park, too,” Ford said. “If you’re hitting the ball out here, you’re hitting it hard.”
Junior Alyssa Villalpando, a transfer from Hawaii, homered for Fresno State with a two-run shot in the third that had placed the Bulldogs ahead 7-6 before Cal’s big fourth inning.
Villalpando finished 2 for 4. Bulldogs leadoff hitter Brenna Moss went 4 for 5 with three runs and one RBI.
And No. 3 hitter Michelle Solomon went 2 for 4 with four RBIs. Solomon hit a two-run double for the game’s first runs then had a two-run single with a shot up the middle that placed Fresno State ahead 5-3 in the second inning.
“It’s fun to play in these type of games,” Solomon said. “It’s tough that it didn’t end our way. But it was a good softball game.
“We learned that this is our potential and this is what should be expected every single game. And that this is kind of the expectations that we should hold ourselves accountable every single game.”