Zoe Conley, re-energized bats lead Cal softball to series sweep over Stanford

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Ask any sports team: there’s arguably nothing sweeter than the taste of victory after a losing skid. One of the few things that might be comparable? Beating a rival in a high-stakes matchup.

Given a three-game series with Stanford to start its spring break, Cal softball managed to do both.

A combination of consistent pitching — the storyline of the Bears’ early season play — and an awakened lineup of hungry bats resulted in not only a sweep of rival Stanford, but also Cal snapping a season-long four-game losing streak. Add that up and the Bears have evened up their conference record at 3-3.

All systems are, once again, a go.

As great as three wins over a rival team are, Cal head coach Diane Ninemire and her coaching staff will be even more pleased that it was the much-maligned offense that led the way for the Bears in their 7-4 and 7-1 wins in games two and three. The offense’s revival didn’t come immediately, however, as Cal was held to just one run in Saturday’s game one pitcher’s duel between redshirt sophomore Zoe Conley and Stanford sophomore Carolyn Lee. Despite Lee’s dominance in the circle, the Bears were able to get creative in the bottom of the fourth with both teams still scoreless. After junior Jazmyn Jackson’s fly-ball fell for a base-hit, Jackson caught herself in a run-down between first and second, allowing senior Kylie Reed to score Cal’s lone run. Conley responded by shutting out the Cardinal for a complete-game, two-hit shutout, showing off the same consistency that has established her as the Bears’ ace in her first season at Cal.

Cal 1, Stanford 0. For the series, and first game. Still, the offensive resurgence would have to wait another day.

And boy, did the big hits begin to pile up during Sunday’s sequel — for both sides. The two teams combined for 14 hits, including three home runs, as the Bears rallied from down 4-1 to win 7-4, overcoming a shaky performance from senior Stephanie Trzcinski in the circle. The big hit came off the bat of senior catcher Annie Aldrete, who blasted a grand slam during Cal’s five-run fourth inning. Sophomore leadoff hitter Lindsay Rood added a solo shot of her own, scoring three runs in total to spark the Bears’ offense with much-needed energy atop its lineup.

Two down, one to go. And with its ace Conley taking her second start of the series, Cal came in confident that it could make it three in a row.

While more of the same came from Aldrete (her second homer of the series) and Conley (her second complete game in as many starts), Sunday’s team win demonstrated just how dangerous the Bears are when they play well together. Seven different hitters picked up a hit, but what’s more, Cal hitters were off and running, swiping four bags in its 7-1 capper Monday afternoon. For the first time in a while, the offense kept the line moving, and the timing couldn’t have been better against its rival school.

Offense back. Statement made. On to the next.

Josh Yuen covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]