The No. 23 Cal softball team was provided plenty of opportunities as they arrived in Eugene, Oregon, for a three-game series against the undefeated No. 3 Ducks. The Bears had the opportunity to shake off a flat-out horrible 10-0 loss against No. 8 Minnesota on Wednesday, the opportunity to hand Oregon their first loss of the season, and most importantly, the opportunity to finally take down a ranked opponent.
But with each passing day this past weekend, these opportunities slowly dwindled away piece by piece by piece until all the Bears had in their possession were three more losses to their name.
Cal suffered a demoralizing series sweep at the hands of Oregon in its first taste of Pac-12 play of the season, dropping all three games by final scores of 5-1, 2-1 and a 10-2 mercy-rule blowout that only required five innings. The sweep extends the Bears’ losing streak to four and marks their fifth loss in the past six games.
Struggles at the plate continued to pester the Bears during their three-game trip up to Oregon. Despite generating 18 hits this weekend, the Bears plated only four runs compared to Oregon’s 20 hits and 17 runs.
Cal’s problems laid in their inability to hit with runners in scoring positions. The Bears created plenty of opportunities to put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard, but couldn’t string together hits with ducks on the pond, batting four for 20 on the weekend with runners in scoring position.
This was best demonstrated in the top of the second inning Friday, during the first game of the series.
The Bears had Oregon standout freshman standout pitcher Maggie Balint already on the ropes. Balint escaped the top of the first with a one-two-three inning, but not before a bit of theater. Balint’s first pitch of the day sailed right over the head of junior catcher Gwen Svekis to the backstop and she continued to miss high. In the midst of facing sophomore Lindsay Rood, Oregon head coach Mike White sent a pitcher to the bullpen, indicating a lack of faith in the face of Balint’s lack of control.
Cal continued to apply pressure in the next frame, loading the bases with no outs by way of two singles and an error. Senior Alleah Laxamana drove in junior Kobie Pettis with a sacrifice fly to center, giving the Bears a 1-0 run lead with two runners on base. Balint was visibly shaken up and the Bears had one of many opportunities to establish a firm lead, but couldn’t plate the runners and proceeded to put up zero after zero.
That second inning foreshadowed Cal’s productivity, or lack thereof, with runners in scoring position the entire weekend. The Bears struck first in all three games, but couldn’t keep their feet on the gas pedal, pressuring on their overmatched pitching staff to match zeros against a potent Oregon offense.
With the conclusion of this series, the Bears have scored an abysmal seven runs in their last six games. Should the Bears have any chance of finally taking down a top-tier opponent, they’ll need to find a way to inject life into their hibernating bats.
Justice delos Santos covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]