Cal Softball begins season with 4 wins at Capital City Kickoff

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It was a stretch of great weather and even better softball for the Cal softball team this weekend as it finished the Capital City Kickoff tournament with a perfect 4-0 record to roar into the new season. They knocked off UCSB once, Santa Clara twice and host Sac State to finish it off Sunday.

Cal’s first win of the season came against UCSB on Friday, in a close 2-0 contest. The game against the Gauchos was a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel, with redshirt junior Zoe Conley anchoring the Bears for all seven innings.

Conley allowed only three hits and no earned runs while striking out eight batters, beginning her season on the same note she ended last spring. For the Gauchos, sophomore Felisha Noriega tossed a similarly solid game, allowing just three hits as well.

The difference in this one was that only one team had junior shortstop Lindsay Rood, who stroked a two-run homer in the third inning that gave Cal a two-run lead, an advantage that stood for the rest of the game.

Minutes before, freshman Sabrina Nunez had notched the first hit of the game for either side, and when Rood took her second stab at Noriega, they both got to cross the plate. After that, the Bears rode the arm of Conley to victory.

A day later, Cal came out and the story was similar, this time with a bit more offensive firepower to boot. Junior transfer Kamalani Dung provided a complete game effort, allowing only two hits and one run and lifting the Bears to a 6-1 victory over Santa Clara. Six different Cal hitters chipped in one or more hits, making for a great team effort at the dish.

Leading the way was freshman third baseman Karlee Sparacino, who had only two plate appearances and got a hit both times. In addition, senior Taurie Pogue had a great day hitting clean up for the Bears, racking up four RBIs on two hits to provide the majority of the Bears’ run support.

After its second game on Saturday was canceled because of a lack of time, Cal came out Sunday amped for its first double-header of the season.

Game one featured a 9-1 run-ruled beat-down of Santa Clara that was called after five innings. Conley threw her second complete game of the season, racking up five strikeouts and allowing only one hit.

The Bears’ offense was all over Santa Clara’s pitching, scoring at least one run in every inning, before opening the floodgates to pile on five runs in their final at-bats. Cal as a team batted .500 for the game, and no Bear struck out at any point.

The final game of the weekend was a real nail-biter, with Cal coming out on top of Sacramento State 2-1 in an extra inning of play. The game was tied at the end of seven innings, but the Bears wasted no time in extras, putting up a quick two runs ignited by the bats of Rood and freshman outfielder Mikayla Coelho.

In the bottom half of the frame, things got dicey as Cal starting pitcher Dung yielded her first run of the game before handing the ball off to Conley, who had pitched earlier in the day. With one out and a runner on third, Conley was able to force a ground ball to third base.

Sparacino fielded it and fired it over to senior Kobie Pettis at first, who then threw home to gun down the potential tying run at the plate.

Game-ending double play heroics aside, it was another fantastic outing for Cal pitching. Dung threw 7.1 innings, allowing just three hits and fanning eight Hornets. Conley, who had thrown a complete game just hours before, came in to relieve and promptly finished off Sacramento State.

With plenty of solid aspects to build off of, the Bears are ready to come back home, where they have a date with UC Davis on Feb. 14 at 2 pm.

Matthew Selman covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]