After a slight stumble against Arizona last weekend, the Cal softball team has taken the first steps to getting its season back on its previous track. The upcoming series against Oregon will be an important indicator of whether the Bears have really regained their momentum.
Cal will play the No. 8 Ducks (31-9, 8-5 in the Pac-12) in a three-game series at Howe Field in Eugene, Ore., beginning Friday at 6 p.m. and concluding Sunday. It will be the Bear’s fifth conference series, following a series in which the Bears dropped only their second loss of the season. Oregon will serve as Cal’s fourth conference series against a ranked opponent.
“We dropped a game on Saturday, but then we came back and won after,” said senior outfielder Jamia Reid. “We had a better mindset then and are looking to take that mindset into Oregon this weekend.”
Though the Bears (40-2, 11-1) had previously swept their series against No. 9 Stanford and No. 3 Washington, the No. 13 Wildcats proved to be more of a challenge. After narrowly winning the first game with two scores off of Arizona errors, Cal dropped the second game, giving the squad only its second loss of the season. Despite that disappointment, the Bears came back the next day with a 6-0 win to snag the series from the Wildcats. Despite suffering a loss, Cal preserved its No. 1 rank.
“We lost this weekend and we learned, and now we are looking to come together as a team and take our knowledge and passion into our next game, and that’s what is important for us,” Reid said.
The tie-breaking win against the Wildcats on Sunday was the first step of the Bears’ recovery after incurring an uncharacteristic loss. Shortly thereafter they shut out a Santa Clara in a single midweek game.
Cal bested the Broncos 10-2 in just five innings, with ace Valerie Arioto holding onto a no-hitter until the last inning and striking out a season-high 13.
The Bears are looking to take that momentum into their Oregon series to prove that the Arizona loss was not a season-altering mishap. Oregon currently stands in third place in the Pac-12 and is coming off of a sweep against in-state foe Portland State. While the Ducks maintain an impressive rank, they have only won one conference series outright, which they accomplished against last-place Utah.
Oregon has only ever swept a series against the Bears once, which they accomplished two years ago. Last year, they avenged the losses with a series sweep of their own.
The series comes at a crucial crossroads for the Bears as they make the transition into the second half of conference play. The Pac-12 is the nation’s most competitive conference, featuring six of the country’s top 15 teams.
“I expect everyone to come out strong, and playing these strong teams is going to make us better now so that we learn from our mistakes and gain experience that will make us better in the postseason, better in the end when it really matters,” Reid said.