Cal softball’s playoff run ends with loss to Alabama

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Nisa Ontiveros approaches the circle with just a narrow 1-0 lead, faced with the tough mission of holding her team’s slim lead over the course of the next three innings. It’s a daunting task, but she’s up to the challenge. On Texas State’s next at-bat, Ontiveros closes out the inning after just three batters. She comes in clutch again over the next two innings, eventually allowing her team to escape with a first win of the NCAA regional tournament.

The Bears (33-24-1) started the contest against Texas State (40-22) on Friday afternoon. The score remained deadlocked at 0-0 until the fourth inning when freshman Lindsay Rood hit a double and, thanks to a fielding error, advanced to third. Junior Annie Aldrete, next up, hit a sacrifice fly to center that allowed Rood to come home and score what would be the game’s only run.

Both teams faced difficulty offensively with Cal accruing just five hits throughout the entirety of the game and the Bobcats only two. Ontiveros’ pitching performance was stellar as she amassed seven strikeouts on the way to the Bears’ first regional win.

In its next game against No. 6 Alabama (48-12), Cal was once again able to earn more hits than its adversary — compiling ten to the Tide’s six — but was unable to convert enough of those to runs and ultimately fell 3-1 on Saturday afternoon.

The Bears ran out to an early lead in the first when Kobie Pettis was able to bring in Jazmyn Jackson after Cal loaded the bases with Jackson, junior Kylie Reed and Aldrete. That lead, however, would not last long, as Alabama struck back in the third inning with two runs.

The Tide extended its lead in the fifth with an RBI to left field from Chandler Dare, who was responsible for two of her team’s three RBI. Cal made a push in the seventh, though, when Jackson and Reed both got on base early. The effort proved to be short-lived as the next three Bears hitters were struck out and the game closed with a 3-1 loss for Cal.

Later that day, the Bears faced Texas State once again in an elimination game. Cal started scoring early in the first with an RBI by Pettis that brought Rood in. Later in that inning, Khala Taylor brought in Aldrete to extend the Bears’ lead to 2-0. Texas State responded with a run in the second and third to tie the game. Cal once again took the lead in the fifth, though, when Rood hit a ball to center that brought in two more runs for the Bears.

It looked as though the Bobcats could make a comeback in the sixth with a solo home run from Taylor Webb, but Webb’s run would be the last one for Texas State thanks to some clutch pitching from Ontiveros, sealing the win at 4-3 for the Bears.

In its regional final on Sunday, Cal found itself up against Alabama for the second time in the weekend. This time, however, it was the Tide who got itself out to a quick lead. Alabama was able to score three runs in both the first and second innings, giving it a sizable advantage against the Bears. The Tide’s six run lead came about thanks to two home runs in the first inning along with a barrage of walks and hits.

Cal’s offense had continual problems getting going, accruing three quick outs in multiple innings before getting anyone on base. Meanwhile, Alabama continued its scoring in the sixth and seventh innings where it was able to extend its lead to 8-0.

In the circle the Bears were missing the high-quality pitching from Ontiveros that had earned them close wins earlier in the weekend. This pitching effort was led by Stephanie Trzcinski who allowed 12 hits for five runs and pitched just two strikeouts.

The loss to Alabama marks the end of the Bears’ NCAA tournament run and the final game of the 2015-16 season. Their NCAA play was reminiscent of much of Cal’s season: marked by an inability to pull together all the facets of their game to earn quality wins.

Both teams faced difficulty offensively with Cal accruing just five hits throughout the entirety of the game and the Bobcats only two. Ontiveros’ pitching performance was stellar as she amassed seven strikeouts on the way to the Bears’ first regional win.

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