Cal softball aims to end skid against Utah at home

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Lianne Frick/File

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After another tough weekend of conference losses, Cal will finally get to take on a Pac-12 opponent in similarly dire straits when it faces off against Utah (which is ranked eighth in the conference) in a three-game home series starting Friday.

The Bears, who have fallen to last place, have now lost nine Pac 12 games in a row. In fact, Cal’s only conference win came more than a month ago, when it demolished Oregon State, 12-0.

While Cal had consistently been ranked in the top-25 teams in the country this season until dropping out just this week, their conference competition has been stiff, as the Pac-12 boasts three teams in the top five and five teams in the top 15. The Bears’ record has certainly showed this dichotomy, with an impressive 25-3 nonconference record and an equally dreary 1-10 conference mark.

Fortunately enough for the Bears, the Utes has struggled mightily as well, possessing a 2-10 conference record. Utah’s only two wins came against a Stanford squad that is also 2-10.

In their most recent game against a Pac-12 opponent, Utah was swept by No. 1 Washington.

Given the similar performance of the two squads in the 2018 season so far, the series may prove to be quite contentious, with both teams also evenly matched in the numbers arena.

Though statistically improbable, Cal and Utah have team batting averages separated by just two points at .292 and .290, respectively. Meanwhile, the two squads’ slugging and on base percentage are both separated by four and 11 percentage points, respectively, with the Bears leading in both areas.

The big advantage for Cal is definitely pitching. The Bears’ two starters, junior Kamalani Dung and redshirt junior Zoe Conley, have combined for a 2.23 ERA while Utah’s starters, seniors Miranda Viramontes and Katie Donovan, have combined for a 3.34 ERA.

Cal’s staff has also managed to hold opponents to a minute .213 batting average, compared to Utah’s, which has allowed .246.

When comparing the team’s top batters, the Bears have the advantage again, although only slightly. Cal is led by senior Jazmyn Jackson, batting .363, and the Utes are led by sophomore Kelly Martinez, hitting .360. Jackson, however, has had more than 20 more at-bats than Martinez, demonstrating the greater strength and consistency of her average.

As a team, Utah will be looking for revenge, as it was swept in a two-game home series the last time these two teams faced each other. The series was fairly one-sided, as the Bears outscored them, 19-8, run-ruling the Utes in the second of the two contests. With just a little more than two years since their last win against Cal softball, Utah will be sure to keep the series competitive.

With half of the 2018 season’s conference games in the rearview mirror, the Bears hope to save some face with just four series remaining. Utah would be a reasonable place to start, and with home field advantage, Cal should be in a good position to compete for the series.

Matthew Selman covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]