Cal softball team has had a bumpy week and a half of play, desperately searching for a “get right” game of sorts to reinstill some much-needed energy as it prepares for a postseason push.
Cal has lost all but one of its past six ballgames, including two series sweeps at the hands of No. 4 Arizona and No. 15 Utah. Its lone win was a nail-biting 3-2 contest against St. Mary’s, which required redshirt sophomore Zoe Conley to make an extended relief appearance and match zeroes with the Gael pitchings staff.
Back in her home circle after a rough outing against Utah last weekend, Conley bounced back, leading the Bears to a 7-0 win against Santa Clara on Wednesday by striking out in a complete game shutout. This start marked the first time Conley went the distance while blanking her opponent since a masterful start against Stanford on March 25.
The Broncos threatened in the later innings, putting two runners on base with less than two outs in the fifth and sixth, but Conley squashed the problem with clutch pitching.
Conley allowed a pair of singles to begin the fifth, but induced a double play off the bat of freshman Adele Elkind before striking out senior Gianetta France to end the inning. The Bear ace worked out of a similar situation in the sixth after allowing a walk and single with one out in the inning, escaping the problem with a flyout and a fielder’s choice to escape trouble.
Santa Clara had its fair share of opportunities to put a run on the scoreboard, but Conley held the Broncos hitless in five at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
While Santa Clara couldn’t capitalize, the Bears cashed in when the time came, totaling four hits in 12 at-bats with a runner in scoring position on the day. Two of those hits came from senior Annie Aldrete, who drove in three runs on two hits.
Junior Jazmyn Jackson built off a strong series against Utah with three hits, raising her average to .355 on the season, while seniors Kylie Reed and Alleah Laxamana chipped into the hit parade with two apiece, the former scoring a run while the latter drove in a run.
The Bears will remain in the Bay Area for a brief two-game series against Fresno State (24-15), which will also play Santa Clara before this weekend’s series.
Fresno State enters its series against Cal with a 3-2 record against teams in the Pac-12, beating Stanford once and Oregon State twice while dropping its matchups against the previously ranked No. 9 Oregon and No. 8 Washington. The Bears will be the Bulldogs’ last encounter with a Pac-12 team this season.
In the circle, the Bears will have to keep tabs on sophomore standout Morgan Howe, who has flourished as a starter after coming off the bench last season. Howe leads the Bulldogs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and hits, but typically hits in the middle of the lineup and ranks seventh on her team in total at-bats.
Justice delos Santos covers softball. Contact him a [email protected]