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UC Riverside softball team defeats CSU Bakersfield, 5-1

The UC Riverside softball team defeated California State University Bakersfield (CSUB), 5-1, on the road in Bakersfield on Friday, May 10. Going into this game, the Highlanders lost their past two series and looked to close out their season strong with a series win against a struggling CSU Bakersfield team, who sat at the bottom of the league. UCR won their last game on May 5 against UC Santa Barbara, 7-6, and looked to carry that momentum into Friday afternoon’s game. 

Sixth-year outfielder Nadia Witt teed the game off with a walk to put the first runner on base for UC Riverside. Witt then got into scoring position as she reached second base off of a sacrifice bunt from senior shortstop Kat Montuya. Sophomore third baseman Rebeca Cabezas was able to deliver the first run of the game as she drilled the ball into left field to send Witt home for an early 1-0 lead for the Highlanders. 

Junior pitcher Maddie Heinlin made her 16th start as the starting pitcher and wasted no time getting to work. After a 1-2 count, Heinlin caught graduate student Maya Williams looking for her first strikeout of the game. Heinlin ran into some trouble after that as she hit junior Violet Salazar with a pitch and an error from UCR led to runners on first and second base for CSU Bakersfield. However, it was no problem for Heinlin as she struck out the next two batters to retire the inning with 3 Ks.

UC Riverside could not get anything going in the top of the second inning, and the Roadrunners were able to capitalize in the bottom of the second. Redshirt junior Kaia Johnson was able to line a single up the middle to get the first hit for CSUB. Johnson then showed off her speed as she stole second base. After a sacrifice bunt from junior Shaylene Fuimaono, Johnson reached third base and looked to reach home with one out on the board. Freshman Hailey Brooks delivered for the Roadrunners as a sacrifice groundout led to Johnson scoring the first run for CSUB and tied the game up at 1-1.

In the top of the third inning, the Highlanders responded with runs of their own to retake control of the game. After a double play from CSUB, it seemed like another 1-2-3 inning for UCR. However, sophomore catcher Jackie Alday and senior catcher Gigi Araki each delivered singles to put two runners on base. Cabezas then stepped up to the plate and hit her second RBI of the game with a single toward right field, which gave UC Riverside a 2-1 lead. Heinlin continued to dominate on the mound as she retired the next six batters to send the game to the top of the fifth inning.

Montuya was the first to bat in the top of the fifth and on a full count, she fired the baseball toward center field for a leadoff double. Montuya then tagged to third base after an Alday flyout in center field. With one out on the scoreboard and Montuya on third, Araki delivered a two-run homer to left field to give the Highlanders a 4-1 lead. Heinlin continued her stellar afternoon in the bottom of the fifth as she struck out two batters and allowed one hit in the inning. 

The offense continued to click in the top of the sixth as they were patient at-bat, in which they drew two walks as a result. Junior outfielder Kamryn Davis lined up an infield single for her first hit of the game. Davis then showed off her wheels as she stole second base. Moments later, Witt and Montuya were both walked and the bases were loaded with no outs. With an opportunity to put the game away, Alday recorded a groundout RBI to send Davis home and push the UCR lead to 5-1. However, UC Riverside left two runners stranded on bases as Araki lined out and Cabezas grounded out, which ended the inning. 

Heinlin was able to close the game away by retiring six consecutive batters. In the bottom of the sixth, Heinlin grounded out two batters and lined out the third. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Heinlin successfully connected with challenging pitches, which resulted in a pop-out, a line-out, and a ground-out to end the ball game and gave UC Riverside a 5-1 victory.

Heinlin picked up her sixth win of the season and finished the game with 7.0 IP, two hits, an earned run and seven strikeouts with zero walks. Araki hit her second home run of the year and finished the game 2-3 at the bat with two RBIs and a walk. Cabezas had a solid game hitting 3-4 at-bat with two RBIs.

The Highlanders won the next two games against the Roadrunners and finished the season 19-28 (13-14) as the sixth seed in the Big West Conference.

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