Cal softball eliminated in regional round of NCAA tournament

Lianne Frick/File

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Cal softball’s season ended abruptly Saturday after two tough losses in as many days to a solid Northwestern squad. The Bears suffered an extra-inning loss to open the Athens Regional round against Northwestern on Friday, and despite earning an easy run-rule win against Harvard on Saturday, Cal dropped its second game against the Wildcats to end its tournament run in the double-elimination round.

While the Bears put together solid performances in all three of this weekend’s contests, they were unable to come up with timely plays on either side of the plate. Freshman Mikayla Coelho led the Bears’ offensive attack in the regionals, batting .571 in seven at-bats to go along with four walks. Coelho’s success culminated in three RBI and three runs scored over the three games.

Despite its first-round loss, Cal softball produced a successful season in terms of team achievements and individual accolades. Under head coach Diane Ninemire, the Bears reached the postseason for the 30th time, while junior Lindsay Rood and senior Jazmyn Jackson earned All-Pac-12 First Team. Sophomore Bradie Fillmore was also included in the third team.

Game one

Cal eventually took the 3-2 loss to Northwestern in the eighth inning, but both sides were locked in a scoreless pitchers’ duel until the top of the fifth. Northwestern took a 2-0 lead by way of an RBI triple and sacrifice bunt.

The Cal bats responded immediately in the bottom of the frame, as Jackson singled to bring home Rood with the help of a Northwestern defensive lapse at home plate. Coelho then tied the game with one of her three doubles on the day, scoring Jackson from third base.

After allowing the two runs in the fifth, redshirt junior Zoe Conley pitched scoreless ball into extras. In the top of the seventh inning, however, Conley allowed two doubles, the second of which came off the bat of Northwestern freshman Kenna Wilkey, giving the Wildcats a one-run lead and the victory.

Game two

With both teams facing elimination, the Bears put together a dominant 10-1 win against the Ivy League champion, Harvard.

Junior Kamalani Dung pitched all five innings of this run-rule victory, allowing two hits and one run along with nine strikeouts.

To secure the five-inning win, the Cal bats tallied five consecutive two-run innings that propelled Dung to her 19th win of the season.

Game three

Cal’s second matchup against Northwestern was yet another crushing defeat, in which the Bears allowed three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and lost the game, 4-3.

After trailing, 1-0, into the sixth inning, the Bears took a 2-1 lead courtesy of a ground out and single that scored Coelho and senior Kobie Pettis. In the seventh, Rood knocked her conference-leading eighth triple of the season and later scored on a Wildcat error.

Conley pitched masterfully through six innings but was unable to quiet the Wildcats for the final two outs. With runners on first and second, Northwestern freshman Rachel Lewis tied the game at three runs apiece by knocking a two-run double off the left-center field wall.

Cal then intentionally walked two batters to load the bases, but the move backfired, as Lewis hustled home from third on a wild pitch to end the game and the Bears’ season.

Max Mennemeier covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]