Cal softball welcomes No.14 UCLA for 3-game series

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If the Cal women’s softball team’s (11-10) first 21 games were merely in preparation for the real deal, then now is the time to perform. As they face their first Pac-12 opponent in UCLA this weekend, the Bears cannot afford to make the same mistakes that their season has thus far been riddled with.

“If the pitching is on one weekend, then the bats are off and we need everything to get going all at one time,” said junior Kylie Reed.

The No. 14 Bruins (17-8) haven’t lost in two weeks. Coming off of an eight-game win streak in which they outscored their opponents 66-9, UCLA will pose a huge challenge to Cal on its own field. The Bears, conversely, are 2-6 throughout the course of their last eight games and have been outscored by their opponents 34-26.

The Bruins are led at the plate by senior outfielder Allexis Bennett who has a .481 batting average and leads her team with 39 hits and 32 runs — and UCLA’s hitting power extends beyond just Bennett. Three Bruins — senior Mysha Sataraka, junior Delaney Spaulding and sophomore Madeline Jelenicki — have contributed for 79 of their team’s 148 total RBIs.

Their hitting could pose an even bigger threat because of the lackluster Cal defense. The Bears’ fielding so far this season has cost them more than a couple runs. With 28 fielding errors in 21 games, compared with UCLA’s 20 in 25, Cal has lost multiple close games because of its inability to get an out on routine plays.

“A lot of the routine balls we are having trouble with, so we need to clean that up,” Reed said.

UCLA uses two pitchers, as compared with Cal’s five-pitcher rotation, but this strategy has not caused them any problems. Both Selina Ta’amilo and Johanna Grauer have winning records with ERAs of 2.90 and 3.89, respectively. Grauer especially has seen growth in her game as her ERA has dropped from 6.21 to 3.89 in the span of less than three weeks.

The Bruins’ pitching staff could pose a great challenge to a Bears team that has so far had very erratic hitting. Freshman Lindsay Rood is Cal’s only player with a batting average more thanover .400 and is one of two Bears with an RBI total of 15 or greater — the other being sophomore Kobie Pettis. Cal’s other hitters, namely Jazmyn Jackson and Reed, must hit to the best of their ability in order for the Bears to have a chance of beating the Bruins.

According to Pac-12 score sheet rankings, the Bears are two spots below the Bruins when it comes to batting average but three spots above them when it comes to ERA. Despite what the national rankings and records may show, these two teams are fairly evenly matched and either one could come out of the three-game series with solid wins.

“Going into Pac-12, we have our set defense out there, and we are starting to get to know each other more and more and are getting to know where each player wants to get the ball when she’s at first base, short-stop, and so on,” Reed said.

Sophie Goethals covers softball. Contact her at [email protected]