Of all the differences between the Bay Area and Los Angeles, one of the most notable distinctions between the two is weather. Citizens of the former location take pride in embracing the year-round perfection, more or less, specifically in the East Bay. Those in the latter boast the area’s continuous overabundance of sunshine, basking in the heat as the sun’s rays come down from the heavens.
As the Cal softball team entered the bottom of the seventh inning in a Friday road game against No. 13 UCLA, the Bears stood three outs away from finally ridding themselves of the season-wide gloominess marred by an inability to beat ranked teams.
But the Bears saw their two-run lead dwindle and turn into a 3-2 loss. Cal not only lost a heartbreaker of a ballgame, but it also lost the opportunity to steal just a bit of UCLA’s shine and finally knock a ranked opponent off its perch. Sunshine may have filled Easton Stadium this past weekend, but the Bruins’ morale-crushing three-game sweep turned the Bears’ clear skies gray once again.
UCLA’s dramatic come-from-behind victory Friday night not only set the tone for Cal’s weekend but also served as a representation of its season.
The Bears entered this series without a victory against a ranked opponent, but through six innings on Friday night, Cal looked as if it would finally overcome its Achilles heel. It was the Bears, not Bruins, who looked the part of the nationally ranked squad.
Given the stakes and the opponent, redshirt sophomore Zoe Conley was in the midst of churning out her best start of the year by far, holding UCLA to no runs and two hits after completing the first six frames.
Sophomore Lindsay Rood was at the forefront of Cal’s offense, contributing to both of her team’s runs on the day. She scored on a Khala Taylor RBI single in the top of the fourth, then added an insurance run in the top of the seventh with an RBI single of her own.
Having dominated the Bruins all game long in the circle and possessing a modest two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, Conley looked primed to lead her squad to their first victory over a ranked opponent this season.
Then, the wheels fell off.
Conley allowed a single and walk to begin the seventh, which immediately reinvigorated some life into the Bruin offense. After inducing a groundout, freshman Bubba Nickles doubled home a pair to notch the game up at two apiece, then advanced to second on an error by Vanessa Alvarez. Gabrielle Maurice finished off Conley and the Bears, doubling in Nickles and sending the Bruins home happy.
In a matter of five batters, Cal’s hopes at a season-changing win were dashed. To add insult to injury, the Bruins increased the margin of victory in the two subsequent games, besting the Bears 3-1 on Saturday and 8-1 on Sunday.
The Bears will head up to Davis for one game against the Aggies (18-26), who have lost nine of their last 12. Cal looks to once again spark its bats against Davis’ pitching staff, which a modest 3.61 ERA on the season.
Justice delos Santos covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]