Cal softball defeats Saint Mary’s, Santa Clara, prepares to face Washington

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The last time the Cal softball team faced Pac-12 competition it found success, winning two of a three-game series against a tough Utah.

This weekend the Bears will have another test on their hands, traveling up north to compete against Washington. Cal is entering this series coming off a two-game winning streak, defeating Saint Mary’s on Tuesday and Santa Clara on Wednesday.

“We’re definitely excited for some Pac-12 competition this weekend,” said senior outfielder Jasmin Mejia. “We need to focus on clutch hitting, getting everything working together and just getting the job done.”

The Bears came out to play against the Gaels after losing to the Utes 5-0 in their previous game. Both teams’ pitching was on fire the entire day, as the game went scoreless for seven full innings until the top of the eighth. Junior Taylor Koenig got things started for her team with a single up the middle. And the highlight of the day came next from Mejia, hitting a triple and allowing a run to come in.

Sophomore Jazmyn Jackson then hit in another run for Cal, giving the team a lead that it never gave up. The Bears ended the day by winning the game 2-0, handing the Gaels their 19th loss of the year.

Cal had a strong team performance against the Broncos on Wednesday, spreading the wealth and picking up a 6-2 win. Junior Khala Taylor especially came out ready to play, finishing the day hitting  2-4 and an RBI.

Jackson also had a great day at the plate, hitting 2-3. The Bears got out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, assisted by three walks because of Santa Clara’s shaky pitching. With the bases loaded, Taylor stepped up and singled to left, driving in junior Kylie Reed. And things only got better from that point on, as sophomore Kobie Pettis was also able to score because of a fielding error.

From there the Bears’ pitching staff continued to keep the team on top to add a W. Cal sophomore starting pitcher Kristin Cullen struck out six batters in 4.1 innings of pitching, only allowing two earned runs off five hits. And from there junior Katie Sutherland-Finch and freshman Kourtney Shaw secured the game by giving up no other runs.

The Bears’ decisive win over Santa Clara will hopefully carry them into their tough weekend series against No. 9 Washington (26-8). The Huskies are on a five-game win streak, coming off of three wins over No. 22 Arizona State and two over the No. 17 Arizona.

At the plate, Washington is led by senior Kimberlee Souza and junior Ali Aguilar who have accumulated 40 and 52 RBIs, respectively. Aguilar also holds the lead for the most home runs and scored runs in the Pac-12 with 17 and 51, respectively. Along with her Pac-12 accolades, Aguilar has also gained attention on the national scale, recently becoming a Top 25 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

In the circle, the Huskies rotate through a three-person pitching staff composed of junior Casey Stangel, sophomore Madi Schreyer and freshman Taran Alvelo — all of whom boast ERAs less than 4.00. Alvelo has accumulated half of her team’s wins and has recorded an astounding 112 strikeouts so far this season.

All facets of Cal’s game must be clicking in order for it to come out of the weekend with a series win. The strong hitting from Annie Aldrete and Jackson that helped to propel the Bears over Santa Clara must once again be present against the Huskies, along with strong pitching and clean fielding.

“This year we’ve had some rough patches but we’re starting to come together,” Mejia said. “Our hitting’s been a lot better this year, so we just need to continue getting timely hits.”

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