Cal softball is dancing into the postseason after being selected to play in the NCAA softball championship field. The Bears were awarded one of the 32 available at-large bids in the field of 64 programs that make up college softball’s best.
The Bears were ranked No. 24 when they headed into their final conference series against then-No. 2 Oregon but dropped out of the top-25 rankings as of May 15.
As one of the strongest conferences in the country, the Pac-12 will be sending a total of seven teams to the first regional round. Cal finished seventh in the conference this season with a 7-16 conference record, despite being 34-19 overall.
Cal softball is no stranger to postseason play; the team has only been left out of the tournament field five times since 1982. This appearance will mark 32 postseason appearances for the Bears, 30 of which have come under head coach Diane Ninemire.
The Bears were placed in the Athens Regional bracket that contains Northwestern, Harvard and the host school, No. 7 seed Georgia. In the opening game, Cal will face Northwestern for the first time since the Bears suffered a 3-2 loss to the Wildcats in 2017.
Ultimately, Cal will take on both Georgia and Harvard in the double elimination round, with the winner advancing to a best-of-three series in the Super Regional round.
Cal did not have a problem this season against inferior opponents, going 27-3 in its nonconference schedule and sweeping Utah and Stanford, which sit at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings. That said, the Bears were unable to net any wins against teams in the top half of the Pac-12 conference, five of which make up the top 14 seeds of the tournament.
In their last two series, the Bears put on several good showings against No. 3 seed UCLA and No. 1 seed Oregon, even though they did not pick up a win. The Bears will hope that their experience against several of the nation’s best teams will come in handy in a competitive playoff atmosphere.
At times, Cal suffered tough losses this season when either its offense or defense failed to play well. The Bears have the pieces to make a run in this championship tournament but will need their leaders at the plate and in the circle to play well if they plan to advance in this talented field.
Max Mennemeier covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]