One month ago, the No. 23 Cal softball team (17-8) could do no wrong. Playing against beatable teams from a variety of conferences, the Bears steamrolled their way through regular season tournaments with a seemingly endless supply of clutch, if not consistent, hitting performances.
But after a few rough weeks, their thirst for those days has officially reached its peak, and an offensive revival will be needed this weekend to avoid slipping to the team that no Cal team ever wants to lose to — archrival Stanford (16-10).
Despite all the rain that has hit California in recent weeks — postponing some of Cal softball’s scheduled matchups, including Wednesday’s game against Sacramento State — the Bears’ talented lineup is stuck in a prolonged drought. The solid contact and timely hits that resulted in a 10-game win streak throughout tournament play have vanished along with the streak
It doesn’t take a sports analyst to recognize that things have been frustrating for the Bears. While a number of factors have contributed to the team’s recent slide, seven total runs scored in the team’s past six games stick out like a sore thumb. Add two rain delays on top of that and, struggling or not, no team wants to spend its game days indoors. The result: frustration.
This was not the start the Bears were looking for heading into Pac-12 conference play.
Cal knows that four runs scored in three games won’t get the job done against high-caliber teams such as No. 3 Oregon, which rightfully swept the Bears on its home turf this past weekend by scores of 5-1, 2-1 and 10-2. Fortunately, Cal will spend its entire spring break at home, where it will begin its homestand against the Cardinal before heading back out on the road for a series with Utah on April 7.
Unlike the well-traveled Bears, Stanford has had the good fortune of resting at home for nearly two weeks. When last seen in action, the Cardinal received an 11-1 wake-up call against Grand Canyon University (25-9), before winning three of their last four games in the Stanford Easton Classic. After its 13-day break, Stanford will look to dismantle its rivals across the Bay with a lineup that features five hitters with a batting average at or more than .366, accentuated by freshman phenom Teaghan Cowles and her team-leading .446 average.
All signs point to the Cardinal having the edge offensively in this showdown between rivals. Aside from junior infielder Kobie Pettis — who picked up at least one hit in each game this weekend — the typically consistent bats in head coach Diane Ninemire’s lineup have been silent. There’s only so much the Zoe Conley-led pitching staff can do to help its floundering offense compete deep into games. Something will have to vault the Bears back to their competitive ways — a tremendous boost from their rotation or, more preferably, an awakened lineup.
If there’s one thing that just might wake the Bears’ struggling offense up, it’s a home series against their rivals across the Bay. Perhaps hosting Stanford is just the break Cal needs to rediscover its early-season magic.
Josh Yuen covers softball. Contact him at