No matter the opposition, the biggest obstacle for the Cal softball team always remains the same: itself.
“We prepare for every weekend the same,” said senior catcher Lindsey Ziegenhirt. “Our biggest opponent is always Cal softball, and we know what we need to do and focus on not beating ourselves.”
At 3-2 on the season, the ninth-ranked Bears will head to Las Vegas, Nev., for the Easton Desert Classic this weekend.
The competition for Cal will not feature any ranked opponents, which will provide an opportunity for the slow-starting Bears to get back on track.
On paper, the competition doesn’t stack up against Cal’s talented lineup. Cal will face off against Nevada, Utah Valley, San Jose State and Portland State.
Nevada’s lineup should prove to be a formidable challenge for the Bears pitching staff, though. Through their first five games of the season, the Wolf Pack are hitting .364 and slugging .556.
“These aren’t going to be easy games,” said freshman Khala Taylor. “I know it’s going to be a dogfight, and we just need to get these wins.”
Ziegenhirt echoed her teammate’s sentiments.
“We come out every game and play every opponent the same regardless,” Ziegenhirt said.
Coming off of its first shutout win of the season over UC Davis, Cal will rely on starting pitcher Jolene Henderson to continue to shake off the rust.
After dropping her first two games of the season, Henderson has won two straight for the Bears. Since giving up seven runs to No. 5 Florida, the All-American has only given up one run in her last 12 innings pitched. That’s the Henderson the Bears are used to, as the pitcher has gone 78-12 over the past seasons in the circle.
“Jolene is a fast-paced girl,” Taylor said. “She’s an amazing pitcher and has amazing leadership.”
Offensively, after missing opportunities at the plate in losses to Kentucky and Florida, Cal’s offense has been on the upswing. After only managing six runs in their two losses, the Bears have scored 16 runs in their last two wins.
The Cal hitters have made solid contact with the ball all season long, but it hasn’t always been falling their way.
“We just need to keep battling,” Ziegenhirt said. “We’re doing all the things we need to do, and not everything is always go to go our way, but we just need to keep pushing through, and things will fall our way.”
With the a strong showing this weekend, the Bears can make a case to climb up the rankings after dropping to No. 9 this past week. Going into the season, the Bears were ranked as the third-best team in the nation. Despite the fall in the rankings, Ziegenhirt insisted that it isn’t a concern among her teammates.
“Rankings don’t really matter until the end, when you can win it all,” Ziegenhirt said. “The rankings give us motivation, but our attitude and our energy doesn’t really depend on how high we’re ranked.”
Sean Wagner-McGough covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]