Just as the Bears were coming up for a breath of fresh air, they barely got their head above water.
In a weekend series against Miami University, Cal was dominated on the diamond in Oxford, Ohio. The Bears left with two losses and a tie in the final game, coming back to Berkeley with the need for improvement.
In typical Cal softball fashion, the Bears fought as hard as they could, but barely came out alive. This pattern has emerged as a trend in Bear territory: against No. 12 Oregon, No. 23 Oregon State, Utah and now Miami, the Bears have lost at least two out of three games. The slow onslaught of this cycle has proven that Cal’s program is a work in progress.
The team is 87% underclassmen. While you can attribute Cal’s losses to an inexperienced team, this statistic actually works out in the Bears’ favor.
Miami, a team composed of 44% upperclassmen and 56% underclassmen, has seniors carrying the squad. In the most significant position on the field, Miami places senior Brianna Pratt or fifth year Courtney Vierstra to occupy the pitching circle. These pitchers, both who have seen four years of collegiate softball, are inevitably more equipped to take on and lead their softball squad to a win.
Cal, on the other hand, stations sophomores Haylei Archer or Sona Halajian in the circle, two pitchers who have only seen a limited COVID-19 softball season. The caliber of competition has grown immensely from last year, and the only thing that will help the Bears grow is a full-blown season’s experience, such as this year’s.
The weekend commenced with a nail-biter game, eventually favoring Miami, 5-6. The Bears hopped on top of the Redhawks right out of the dugout. Sophomore Alexis Bishop and freshman Acacia Anders tag-teamed as Cal’s powerhouse hitters, scoring four runs in the first inning.
However, revenge soon ensued.
Within the next two innings, Miami scored six runs against Archer and held Cal to only one additional run in the sixth inning. With freshman Annabel Teperson relieving Archer in the third inning, the Redhawks could not lay their bat on the ball again. Nevertheless, Cal dropped their first game and moved into the second with a suspenseful game under their belt.
The second game of the series had a similar beginning to the first. In the third inning, Cal rallied their bats to score three runs against Miami. Against Halajian, Miami struggled to make a comeback.
In the bottom of the third, a solo homer from Miami did not manage to build momentum at bat. Cal scored an additional two runs in the fifth inning and gave themselves some insurance. With the pressure of a 5-1 score falling on the shoulders of Miami, the team bounced back in the bottom of the seventh inning and did major damage on the diamond.
In an unprecedented comeback, the Redhawks scored six runs and beat the Bears, 5-7.
Cal went into the third game at a low point. With a ticking timer on the game to ensure the Bears will catch their flight back to Berkeley on time, a drop dead ninth inning concluded the final game of the series with a tie. When the game was tied 8-8 in the seventh inning, Halajian, in the circle, refused to let any Redhawk touch home plate. While the Bears could have taken the final inning in stride, they lost their chance due to a technicality.
Cal softball has a bright future to look forward to, both in the rest of this season and in the upcoming years.
The weekend series that the Bears are playing now are providing them the experience they need to dominate their competition in the future, and they will bounce back as a top tier softball program in the years to come.