The No. 23 Cal softball team entered the first of two Friday ball games at the Judi Garman Classic riding a 10-game winning streak. On Sunday afternoon, the team left Fullerton, California, with a pair of wins, a pair of losses and a wake-up call that will serve it well down the road.
The Bears’ silent bats doomed them from the outset, dropping Friday games to Northwestern by a score of 3-2 and No. 3 Florida 4-0. But the Bears bounced back in their Saturday night and Sunday afternoon contests against Iowa and Indiana by totals of 1-0 and 6-3, respectively.
Cal found themselves having to play comeback against Northwestern early, a position to which they have been unfamiliar this season. Northwestern was rolling from the jump in the bottom of the first, as Cal sophomore Kourtney Shaw allowed two hits before recording an out, putting Northwestern runners on first and third with no outs.
Shaw recorded two outs before Diane Ninemire pulled her in favor of senior Katie Sutherland-Finch, but the righty couldn’t bail her teammate out, allowing a single to junior Sammy Nettling to put Northwestern up two. Two innings later, Nettling drove in her third run of the game with a sacrifice fly, giving Northwestern a 3-0 lead.
With a Cal offense desperate for offensive production, sophomore Lindsay Rood injected some much needed life into the Bear bats, putting her team on the scoreboard with a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning, cutting the deficit to 3-1.
Northwestern held Cal scoreless in the top of the fifth, but the Bears emerged in the sixth. Senior Kylie Reed kicked off the inning with a single then advanced to third on a single by junior Jazmyn Jackson.
Fellow junior Kobie Pettis knocked in Reed and advanced Jackson to third with a sacrifice fly, bringing the Bears within one. Senior Khala Taylor got the single and advanced to second on an error, but Northwestern’s quick fielding stranded Jackson at third.
With runners on second and third and one out, Cal couldn’t plate the tying run as Northwestern freshman Morgan Newport struck out both redshirt senior Vanessa Alvarez and senior Alleah Laxamana, ending the threat. Newport held Cal scoreless in the seventh, securing the Northwestern win.
Cal’s offensive front fared no better against a powerhouse in Florida, which limited Cal to only three hits. One of those three hits was a double by Jackson, the only time the Bears put a runner in scoring position the entire game. Florida tagged redshirt sophomore Zoe Conley for seven hits and four runs in six innings of work, three of which came by way of the long ball.
Conley and the Bears bounced back the following evening, shutting out Iowa in an offense-deprived 1-0. Conley thrived in the team’s first night game of the season, striking out a season-high eight while holding Iowa to one hit over seven innings.
After three games of offensive stagnation, the Bear offense finally came to life. Led by four RBI from sophomore Danielle Bowers, all of which came from a grand slam in the top of the second inning, Cal’s offense erupted for a 6-3 win over Indiana, ending an up-and-down tournament on an upswing.
Justice delos Santos covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]