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Wildcats complete series sweep of Cal State East Bay, improve to 17-0

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Not even a chilly, windy afternoon could cool down the red-hot Chico State softball team in its se-ries-ending doubleheader Saturday against Cal State East Bay. Solid pitching combined with timely hitting helped the No. 8 Wildcats remain perfect on the season and close out February on a winning note, downing the Pioneers 4-1 and 4-2 at University Softball Field.

With the two Saturday victories, Chico State extended its school-record winning streak, moving to 17-0 on the season. The Wildcats improved to 12-0 in the California Collegiate Athletic Associa-tion (CCAA), and increased their conference lead to three games over second place Sonoma State.

The ’Cats rapped out 14 hits on the afternoon. Wendy Cardinali collected a combined three safeties in the two games, with Ari Marsh, Amanda Flores, Kristin Worley and Karli Skowrup all enjoying a multi-hit day. Marsh racked up four runs batted in to give her a team-high 18 on the year.

For the second straight day, Haley Gilham and East Bay’s Abby Greer locked up in an impressive pitching duel in Saturday’s doubleheader opener. Greer thwarted a Wildcats’ scoring opportunity by wiggling out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second inning, while Gilham stranded a Pioneers runner at third by striking out Emilie Portesi to end the top of the fourth.

The ’Cats got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning with a pair of clutch two-out hits. With two aboard, Cardinali lined a single to center field to chase home Flores. A walk to Angel Lopez loaded the bases, setting the stage for Marsh, who ripped a base hit to center to drive in Car-dinali and Megan Bowley to give Chico State a 3-0 lead.

The Wildcats went up 4-0 in the fifth when Cyrena Taylor led off with a double; Flores followed with a two-bagger that knocked in pinch-runner Annie Weiss.

It appeared East Bay would answer back in the top of the sixth, loading the bases with nobody out. But Gilham got out of the jam unscathed by inducing a double-play grounder and getting Portesi to fly out to end the inning.

Gilham lost her shutout bid in the top of the seventh. A bases-loaded walk and a hit batter forced home two runs, and suddenly it was nervous time, as East Bay put the potential tying and go-ahead runs on base. Gilham short-circuited the suspense by striking out Bailee Glover looking to end it, giving Chico State the 4-2 win.

Gilham (9-0) struck out five in posting her eighth complete game of the season.

In the nightcap, East Bay got on the board in the top of the first inning against Wildcats starting pitcher Naomi Monahan, but Chico State responded with two runs in the bottom of the frame. The table was set when Cardinali doubled and advanced to third on a bunt single by Worley. An RBI groundout by Marsh tied the score, then Claire Wayne roped a single down the left field line to plate Worley and put the ’Cats up 2-1.

Chico State extended its advantage in the bottom of the second inning on back-to-back RBI singles by Worley and Marsh.

The Wildcats still held a three-run lead when Sam Mulock took over for Monahan in the pitcher’s circle in the top of the fifth inning. The sophomore left-hander maneuvered out of a mini-jam in the fifth, tossed a 1-2-3 sixth and stranded a pair of East Bay runners in the seventh to lock down Chi-co State’s 4-1 victory and both the doubleheader and series sweep.

Monahan got credit for the win to improve to 6-0 on the season, with Mulock picking up her first career save.

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