When the Cal softball team sets sail for San Diego, it won’t be for tacos, beaches or even Ron Burgundy. Rather, the Bears will be in store for a business trip — five games in a span of 72 hours.
This weekend, No. 24 Cal will undertake its second tournament of the season — the Campbell/Cartier Classic. On Friday, both South Dakota (3-0) and San Diego State (4-1) will try to knock Cal off course. The following day, Cal (3-1) faces two more combatants — Texas State (3-1) and Cal State Fullerton (5-0). The Bears’ hectic weekend will conclude with a matchup against fellow NorCal team St. Mary’s (7-3) on Sunday.
Despite partaking in tournaments jam-packed with games since her youthful summer-ball days, shortstop Cheyenne Cordes isn’t as giddy as she used to be.
“When we all played summer ball, we’d be like ‘Five games in one day.’ We were just ready to go,” Cordes said. “And now that we think about it, we’re like ‘Oh my gosh, five games.’ We’re old; we’re going to be sore. But I think for us, we’re going to be fine.”
The tournament comes off the heels of the ASU Kajikawa Classic — Cal’s first action of the year. The Bears racked up three wins, but against Creighton, their offense found itself in a scoring drought nearly as dire as the state’s own rain deprivation.
Looking at the box score, Cal managed to cross home plate four times, but the stats don’t reflect Cal’s zombie-like offense. Bluejays pitcher Becca Changstrom had Cal’s sluggers swinging out of their cleats five of the seven innings. Jordan Wallace’s grand slam in the sixth inning soiled Changstrom’s clean sheet, but that’s all the Bears would manage.
While Cordes isn’t sure what happened against Changstrom, the 8 a.m. first pitch probably didn’t help.
“I don’t really know what to say other than we were slow getting started,” Cordes said. “We started hitting too late, and we just ran out of time.”
Five games in three days is a daunting task but offers Cal’s inexperienced pitching staff a chance to log an abundance of playing time. Last season, the Bears relied almost solely on Jolene Henderson. But this season, without Henderson, coach Diane Ninemire can’t afford to rely on just one pitcher. Instead, the rotation is actually one that boasts promising arms.
One of those arms, like that of Katie Sutherland-Finch, delivered two shutout innings against New Mexico in her first career appearance. She continued her sizzling debut with 5.1 scoreless frames against Creighton. Despite surrendering three earned runs in the five innings she tossed against Portland State, her uneven performance was enough to pick up a win — the first of her career.
“On Saturday (against Creighton), I did a good job getting ahead (in the count), but right now, it’s all about the learning process,” Sutherland-Finch said. “There’s definitely positives to take away from it, but there’s also things to work on.”
And if Ron Burgundy tries to throw a curveball in his postgame interview with her by asking — in his voice that makes wolverines purr — if she’s related to softball legend Jennie Finch, the freshman is well rehearsed in her response.
“I usually say, ‘I’m not allowed to talk about it,’ ” Sutherland-Finch said. “It’s more fun to have some mystery.”