Cal softball knocked out of NCAAs with loss to Pittsburgh

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Patrick Chong/File

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Cal softball’s postseason aspirations came to an end this weekend, with two losses in the NCAA Softball Tournament’s Regional in Ann Arbor, Michigan. After a strong regular season and a dominant performance in the first game of the weekend, the No. 20 Bears appeared poised to advance further but ultimately came up short.

Cal’s first game of the postseason came against Pittsburgh, a team that amassed a 35-20 record playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Bears handily beat their nonconference opponent with an explosive offensive performance. After being held scoreless in the first inning, Cal entered the bottom of the second inning down, 2-0, against Pitt.

In the second inning, the Bears scored seven runs, including an impressive three-run homer by freshman Kobie Pettis. After seniors Cheyenne Cordes and Danielle Henderson got themselves on base with base hits, Pettis sent the ball flying over the right-field wall to give Cal three runs. The Bears managed to hold onto their lead for the rest of the game, earning the 11-3 victory over Pitt. Sophomore pitcher Katie Sutherland-Finch supported the stellar offense with her steady pitching efforts, giving up just three runs while notching four strikeouts.

Michigan, ranked No. 5, accumulated a record of 51-6 as a member of the Big Ten Conference and posed a daunting challenge to the Bears. Things started out smoothly, with Cal seizing a 1-0 lead in the second inning. From there, the Bears’ offense became stagnant, and Cal was held scoreless for the remainder of the game. In fact, the Bears were able to register only three hits the entire game.

With a steady offense and excellent pitching from Michigan ace Megan Betsa, who struck out 10 batters in her six innings, the Wolverines were able to take over the game and earn the victory, 9-1. Following the Michigan loss, the Bears were slated to play Pitt once again, but this time in an elimination game.

Cal’s offense didn’t click in the same way it did in the first game, but the Bears managed to hold a 2-1 lead entering the fifth inning. The momentum swung in the fifth inning after the Panthers surged ahead with five runs to go up, 6-2. Sutherland-Finch held Pitt’s offense scoreless in the second, third and fourth innings but was unable to contain the offensive outburst by the Panthers in the fifth inning.

Despite the four-run deficit heading into the final inning, Cal refused to give up. Senior Mary Lee ran in for the score after a ground out by Cordes that proved strategic. Despite their efforts, the Bears were unable to complete the comeback and still fell, 6-3, to Pitt. This ended the season for Cal with a final record of 39-18, improving upon last year’s 23-29 record.

“Throughout the whole year, we’ve proven that this team will never give up — not until the last out is made,” said senior infielder Britt Vonk to Cal Bears. “Today that was proven again. We couldn’t pull all the way through, but we fought. I’d rather go down fighting than go down without battling.”

Kapil Kashyap covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]