With a banged-up club, the Cal softball team rolled into Oregon with hopes of securing a win against one of the top teams in the nation but ended up leaving with its worst losses of the season.
The No. 18 Bears traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to face the No. 2 Ducks (44-5 overall, 19-2 Pac-12) in Cal’s final away series. Unfortunately for Cal, the Bears (35-16 overall, 7-14 Pac-12) will come back to Berkeley with another three losses after being swept by Oregon, 5-2, 9-0 and 17-1.
“(We need to work on a) combination of a lot of things,” said senior redshirt shortstop Britt Vonk. “Defense and offense just needs to come together. Both of those things are kind of lacking, so we just need to work on it and get better on it as a team.”
The Ducks, however, did not struggle, as they put on a solid performance both on the field and in the box. Oregon’s combination of offense and defense effectively shut down any winning momentum Cal may have gained with last week’s wins against Washington and UOP.
The Bears knew they were going to have a formidable opponent on the mound for Oregon, as Cal faced junior ace Cheridan Hawkins, who currently has the lowest ERA in the Pac-12. Despite a slow start Friday from Hawkins, which included hitting two Cal players and walking another to load the bases in the first inning, the Ducks’ ace managed to escape the inning unscathed.
Cal’s offense suffered all weekend because of its inability to produce hits. With freshman outfielder Jazmyn Jackson and sophomore infielder Kylie Reed both out from injuries, the Bears took a hit in their lineup at the plate. Both Jackson and Reed are key components to Cal’s lineup, with near-perfect fielding percentage and their .448 and .367 batting averages, respectively.
In their first loss of the series, the Bears managed to score off a two-run homer by Vonk, who lined a pitch over the right-field fence. Vonk was one of the few consistent performers for Cal’s offense by going two for three Friday and Saturday, as well as nabbing a hit in Sunday’s game. But Vonk’s homer in the series opener was the second-to-last time a Cal player would cross home plate this weekend.
As for the Ducks, their hitting seemed to be contagious from the leadoff to the nine spot, as Oregon had a total of nine home runs for the weekend, five of which came during the 17-1 mercy-rule loss for the Bears on Sunday.
In the series finale, Cal’s senior infielder Danielle Henderson started things off for the Bears with a solo shot in the top of the first to give the Bears their first lead in the series. But that was the last time Cal managed to score, and Oregon went on to out-hit the Bears, 19-4, with the Ducks’ 19 hits accurately representing their 17-1 win.
Now Cal is heading home for its final series of Pac-12 play, hoping to regain some winning momentum before entering the postseason.
“Everyone is a little emotional (after the loss), but that happens, and obviously you want to win, and we just want to play well,” Vonk said. “This last game was pretty painful, and we’re just going to come back to Berkeley and work on the things we need to work on.”
Alicia Fong covers softball. Contact her at [email protected]