It was a rough night for the Bears.
The Cal softball team took on the visiting Gophers in a nonconference game Wednesday night, as the No. 12 Bears (22-4) fell to No. 15 Minnesota (24-4) in an 8-1 loss.
The game started with Minnesota’s senior shortstop Tyler Walker hitting Cal’s Katie Sutherland-Finch’s second pitch of the game over the right field fence. This would serve as a precursor for things to come, as the Gophers went on to hit a total of four home runs in the Bears’ loss at Levine-Fricke Field.
After escaping the top of the first inning, it was Cal’s turn at the bat against Minnesota’s ace sophomore pitcher Sara Groenewegen. With a 15-2 record on the mound, Groenewegen’s previous .96 ERA stood true as the Bears’ offensive struggles were clear from the start. Groenewegen recorded three strikeouts in the bottom of the first inning, with Cal leaving two runners stranded.
“She’s a really good pitcher, so you have to give her credit, but I think offensively our team came out way too passive,” said Cal senior Danielle Henderson. “We should have definitely been taking advantage of those misses where I think some of those times we could have gotten key hits, and it just kind of didn’t go our way.”
Despite the Bears’ struggle at the plate, Cal’s defense was able to hold Minnesota to a 2-0 lead until the top of the fourth inning, when the Gophers’ offense started off with a bomb over the left field fence by junior left fielder Paige Palkovich. Following Palkovich’s solo home run was a hard-hit single up the middle by Walker, who advanced to second on a single by sophomore third baseman Sam Macken.
With runners on first and second, Cal freshman pitcher Kristen Cullen made her first appearance of the season, replacing Sutherland-Finch after 4.1 innings. A steal by the Gophers had all runners advancing, putting both players in scoring position — a sequence that proved to be beneficial for Minnesota after a throwing error to home plate by the Bears on the next play allowed the Gophers to score one more.
With two outs, Minnesota’s designated player Hannah Granger hit a line drive double to left field, resulting in another run. Cullen managed to end the inning on a positive note, striking out the Minnesota batter on three straight pitches, but the damage was done — the Gophers led going into the bottom of the fourth, 5-0.
The next couple of innings continued to see Minnesota add to their lead, with Walker hitting a two-run homer over the right-center field fence in the fifth and Granger hitting one over the left field fence in the sixth. The Gophers would not score again, but it wasn’t necessary with Cal only recording four total hits to Minnesota’s eight. The Bear’s only run came in the bottom of the fifth, when Henderson hit a bomb over the left field fence.
“Simply put, they showed up and we didn’t,” said shortstop Cheyenne Cordes. “You have to hit to win. You can’t just rely on the home run — you can’t live or die by the home run. (Henderson’s) home run was nice, but nevertheless it was only one run. We just need to show up and bring that energy we had in the beginning of the season.”