Even though the 33-18-1 Bears will remain in Tucson as the sixth seed facing Utah in the inaugural Pac-12 Softball tournament, Cal concluded its regular season on a high note, winning two of three against the Arizona Wildcats.
As anticipated, the two teams’ offenses proved to be the story of the series. During a weekend where the blue and gold won the first two games by scores of 8-6 and lost the finale 9-4, there were a total of 41 runs scored and 54 hits earned.
Tatum Anzaldo, who entered Cal’s final regular season stretch hoping to make her graduating teammates proud, dominated the Wildcats, producing five hits in seven plate appearances during the last two games.
Anzaldo, who hit two home runs, credited third-year head coach and Cal alumna Chelsea Spencer for her success, recognizing Spencer’s efforts to lift the team’s morale in a post-game interview with the Pac-12 Network’s broadcast Saturday.
“Coach Spencer is the heart and soul of this team,” Anzaldo said. “She’s the reason why I have so much confidence in myself. I think she’s the reason why a lot of us have a lot of confidence in ourselves, honestly. She is Cal softball — she breathes it and bleeds it, and so do we.”
Anzaldo finished her third regular season with career highs in on-base percentage with .465 and fielding percentage with .980. She also led the team in batting average with .388. These numbers speak volumes about her two-way presence and career development in Berkeley.
Even though the Bears have time to hibernate after an electric offensive series, the team should be weary of its struggles on the mound. Cal has allowed five or more runs in all of its last six games and 21 total against the Wildcats alone. The problems within the circle have been consistent yet escapable throughout the season — but in do-or-die playoff games, every flaw becomes glaring.
On a positive pitching note, the Bears had the opportunity to utilize Ashanti McDade more than usual, with the freshman tossing 56 pitches in Tucson. Since Cal was essentially locked into the sixth seed in the upcoming conference tournament after Friday’s win, Spencer allowed McDade valuable repetitions. Although McDade met with more experienced, damaging opponents, she held her own.
Also in the defensive action, outfielder Mika Lee must be in the running for the equivalent of Major League Baseball’s “Gold Glove” award. Time and time again, Lee has made a diving grab or a clutch throw to earn her team crucial outs, and she added to her highlight reel after making a sensational grab in the first inning of the third game.
“Most of the time I’m just thinking, ‘I (have) got to back up my pitchers,’ ” Lee said. “Just doing whatever it takes to back them up on that end.”
Lee and the Bears took care of business against Arizona, despite the loss. Considering that the blue and gold have only left Tucson with a series win one other time since 2011, Cal can cross another goal off its list, just like it did by beating UCLA for the first time in a decade or remaining undefeated against Santa Clara.
As it stands, the Wildcats still lead the all-time record versus the Bears, 90-36. However, the Bears have taken four of the last six meetings and are slowly making a dent in the teams’ lopsided history.
The regular season finale was another example of this season’s successful Cal team. The Bears won two of three contests because of their elite bats, not their iffy pitching — which is on par for a Cal program that won 63% of all games this year with the help of its offense.