Pac-12 play is beginning to wind down, but the competition is just heating up for the Bears.
The Cal softball team will take on Washington in a three-game series starting Friday at Levine-Fricke Field at 3 p.m. The No. 20 Bears (5-10 Pac-12, 32-12), who experienced their first sweep at the hands of then-No. 8 UCLA this past weekend, will look to get back on track against the No. 18 Huskies (7-7, 36-11).
Despite a rough road trip last weekend, Cal did not go down without a fight, when the Bears’ offense was pitted against the Bruins’ senior ace pitcher Ally Carda, who boasts a whopping 216 strikeouts on the season. Cal recorded 11 hits off of Carda in the second game of the series, including a home run by freshman infielder Kobie Pettis.
“Obviously last weekend was pretty tough, but I think the team came out of it pretty confident because we played well,” said senior redshirt shortstop Britt Vonk. “We knew going into the Pac-12 we were going to face more difficult teams. The games (we lost the past few weekends) weren’t really high scores — they were very close, and it could have gone either way.”
The Bears will look to tip the scales in their favor and translate that into a win this weekend, as Cal will face a Huskies’ pitching squad that holds a collective 4.41 ERA.
Leading the Bears’ offense is freshman outfielder Jazymn Jackson, who has a .440 batting average — high enough to rank fifth in the Pac-12. Jackson, the leadoff hitter, has earned 70 total hits on the season so far. Right behind Jackson is Vonk, with a .430 batting average and a .551 on-base percentage, the second highest in the conference.
But the Bears will also need to bring their A-game on defense with Washington coming into the series with more than a few big hitters in their lineup. The Huskies hold a collective .349 batting average, and although Cal is not far behind with its .340 batting average, Washington’s bats have been hot for the past few weeks. The Huskies have recorded hits in the double digits the last three games in a row, which marked the 25th time on the season Washington has reached this milestone.
The Huskies’ success at the plate is led by sophomore infielder Ali Aguilar, who is currently ranked second in the Pac-12 with a .447 batting average. Riding an eight-game hitting streak, Aguilar also has a .842 slugging percentage this season. Washington senior utility player Kylee Lahners is also a staple in the Huskies’ offense with a .556 on-base percentage, the highest in the conference.
The Bears’ pitching staff will have their hands full with this Washington offense, but fortunately for Cal, its pitchers are used to facing formidable opponents such as this. The Bears will lean on sophomore pitchers Stephanie Trzcinksi and Katie Sutherland-Finch as the two will take the mound with a 3.11 and 3.36 ERA, respectively.
“For us to win these games we just need to be great at all the components of the game — defense, offense, pitching — it just needs to all work together,” Vonk said. “This past weekend some of those components were kind of lacking. We just need to focus on the small things, on every little detail we need to work on, and we should be good for the weekend.”
Alicia Fong covers softball. Contact her at [email protected]