After finishing the DeMarini Invitational with a record of 2-2 and snagging a tightly-contested win against UC Davis, Cal will host the UCLA Bruins in what will be each team’s first Pac-12 series of the year.
The Bears enter the series with a record of 17-4 — their best after 21 games since 2018’s record of 18-3. The Bears finished that season seventh in the conference at 35-21. Ahead of Friday’s opening matchup, Cal is in similar territory.
Second in ESPN’s national softball rankings, UCLA is sitting pretty at 23-1 while riding a six-game winning streak. Historically, the Bruins have fared well against the Bears — winning 76% of all matchups since 1999. Stunningly, UCLA hasn’t lost to Cal in 20 tries, dating back to 2012.
The Bruins have quite the resume to intimidate any opponent, let alone the Bears. However, the home team remains unfazed and is eager to compete.
“We couldn’t be more pumped,” said pitcher Haylei Archer. “This is what it’s all for. It’s showtime, baby. We couldn’t be more excited to start our Pac-12 series off at home against UCLA. They’re great competition, and we’re ready to get rolling.”
Archer is the Bears’ ace. She leads the pitching staff with a record of 6-1, a 1.22 ERA and 46 innings pitched.
Cal fans should be delighted to hear a vocally confident team leader on the mound heading into a program-defining series.
The Bears, ranked 30th by the same ESPN formula, are as equipped as any team to pull off the upset.
The blue and gold have a strong team batting average of .321, which isn’t far off from UCLA’s .346. Not to mention, in three fewer games, Cal has hit 10 more home runs than the Bruins, in addition to hitting more doubles and having a higher slugging percentage.
According to the numbers, keeping up with UCLA in the batter’s box shouldn’t be a problem for the blue and gold’s offense.
Instead, the difference between the two teams’ pitching units can potentially decide the series.
Cal’s team ERA is 2.96. The Bears have allowed 72 runs on the year and 22 over their last four games, whereas the Bruins have allowed just 42 runs in 24 games – a vast run differential. UCLA also boasts a team ERA of 1.48 and has three pitchers with four or more wins.
Although Cal doesn’t have the arsenal to match that of the Bruins on the mound, the team has shown the ability to rise to the occasion.
Annabel Teperson and Anna Reimers, who both hold records of 5-1, must help Archer slow down UCLA’s bats. Combined, the tandem has an ERA of 3.02, which will likely need improvement if the blue and gold are to have any shot at victories.
Cal has the opportunity to make a statement to the softball community with wins versus one of the better programs in the nation.
The Bears, who enter the heavyweight bout as winners of their last three, must continue to rely on the trust within the clubhouse to play their best game — a theme echoed throughout the season.
The blue and gold have been electric in the three tournaments they’ve appeared in thus far. However, both Cal and its fans know that Pac-12 play matters most. The Bears haven’t finished above .500 in conference play since the 2011-12 season, when they went 21-3.
Cal can shake the room this weekend with wins against its Southern California rival.