Looking at Cal’s spring sports season

Lianne Frick/File

As the spring 2019 slate of sports kicks off, we can reflect on Cal’s wide range of performances in 2018, from teams that haven’t seen the playoffs in years to teams that took home titles last spring.

The Bears baseball team finished last season unranked, with an overall record of 32-22, and their conference record of 16-14 earned them a fifth-place finish in the Pac-12 — one of college baseball’s most competitive conferences.

On the mound, it’s uncertain who will emerge as the Bears’ ace in 2019, as the team lost its top three starting pitchers to graduation after last season. While there are many names who can step in and fill the void, junior Jared Horn seems to be the most likely candidate to get the job done. Horn faced struggles in his sophomore season, posting a 6.15 ERA on the year, but all are confident that the right-hander can find his form in 2019 and live up to the high expectations set for him.

With five starting position players returning to the diamond in 2019, including first baseman Golden Spikes Award-winner Andrew Vaughn, Cal baseball is expected to improve on last year’s middle-of-the-pack status and contend for its first Pac-12 championship in nearly 40 years.

The Cal softball team will enter the 2019 season with a point to prove in one of the country’s top conferences. The Pac-12 sent four of the final eight teams to the 2018 Division I Women’s College World Series, with Washington narrowly losing in the final to Florida State. The stiff competition will return with force this season, providing a daunting challenge for head coach Diane Ninemire, who is entering her 30th season at the helm.

Count on senior standout Lindsay Rood to cause havoc at the plate on the back of her team-leading 62 hits that she accumulated last season, while senior flamethrower Kamalani Dung continues to silence opposing offenses after an impressive display in 2018. Cal faces an early test in a doubleheader against Oklahoma State and Notre Dame in the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational on Feb. 16 at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.

Once conference play begins, Cal will face UCLA (March 29-31), Washington (April 5-7), Oregon (April 18-19) and Arizona State (May 3-5) in what promises to be the most exciting stretch of the season.

The women’s basketball team began the season on a tear with a 9-0 record leading up to a showdown with perennial powerhouse No. 1 UConn. The Bears managed to hang with them, which only increased the confidence in the team, despite the loss. Cal then lost four of its next five games, but the Bears seem to be coming out of the slump. Led by senior Kristine Anigwe, who ranks sixth and first in the nation in scoring and rebounding, respectively, the Bears will have a shot at a postseason run.

On the other hand, the men’s team has seen much less success. The team has statistically one of the worst defenses in the nation out of more than 300 teams, and Cal has yet to tally a single conference win. Head coach Wyking Jones has given fans little reason for optimism, as there have been no real signs of growth, despite flashes of talent by players such as Justice Sueing and Matt Bradley.

The lacrosse team is another that has struggled with winning, as the team went 6-12 in 2018 and is hoping to rebound this spring. The program named seniors Caroline Corzel and Jenny Wilkens, along with Kirsten Swanson and Eliza Christman, as the team captains, and they will attempt to lead the team to its first winning season since 2013.

In the water, the Bears are primed to continue their long-standing streak of success, as the men are currently ranked No. 1, with the women at No. 5 in the country. Freshman Reece Whitley has been dominating the men’s side of program, while senior Katie McLaughlin and junior Abbey Weitzeil highlight the women’s team. Both teams have legitimate shots at the national title, and with the 2020 Olympics creeping up, it will be interesting to watch individual prospects plead their cases.

Continuing with the water sports, the women’s rowing team is coming off a world championship in 2018 and will be on the hunt to repeat this spring. The men’s team also sustained its reputation but came up a bit short, with a third-place finish at nationals. Both teams will undoubtedly experience significant success, but a championship may be the only thing that satisfies in the end.

Contact the Daily Cal Sports Staff at [email protected] .