What are your overall season expectations for the team?
Emily Ohman: After finishing seventh in the conference, despite going 35-21 overall, and after a postseason that didn’t shake out quite as Cal hoped, the Bears will be looking to prove themselves worthy of a ranked spot among 296 other Division I teams, as they received 10 votes in the first preseason poll. I think the Bears have more than a good chance of making it to playoffs, and if they do, it’ll be for the 31st time under head coach Diane Ninemire.
The Bears not only have the talent it’ll take to make the postseason, but they have a personal vendetta to fulfill — after losing to Northwestern in the regional round last year, Cal is going to come out swinging, with no intention to stop.
Spencer Golanka: It’s key for the Bears to win their conference games against ranked opponents, which is something they struggled with mightily last season. Not only will it put them in a better position to make the College World Series, but it will give the squad the confidence to make a deep run rather than an early exit from the tournament.
Cal has enough experience and depth to make it far, but the team will need all the help it can get in the form of an improved conference record and a higher seeding come tournament time.
Which players do you think will have the biggest impact for the Bears?
EO: As far as position players go, senior Lindsay Rood had an impeccable season last year and is looking to repeat this spring. One of two All-Pac-12 picks on the team, Rood led the Bears both in runs, with 49, and in hits, with 62. Sophomore Mikayla Coelho was close behind, with 32 hits and a .320 average, and she will need to solidify her spot as one of the team’s best if Cal is looking to go deep into the postseason. Coelho was selected to play on the All Pac-12 freshman team and tied to lead the team in doubles last season with 11, and if she can keep stuffing the stat sheet, she’ll be an indispensible weapon for the Bears.
SG: Kamalani Dung will undoubtedly be the driving force for this team on the mound. Last season as a junior, Dung ranked in the top 10 of every major pitching category in the Pac-12, finishing with a 1.96 ERA, 19 wins, 186 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of just .181.
Dung threw a perfect game in her home state of Hawaii, striking out 12 against University of Texas at El Paso, and she managed to maintain an impressive 14-game winning streak over an important stretch of matchups last season. If Dung’s senior campaign is half as good as her junior season, the Bears will find themselves with one of the premier arms in all of college softball.
What are some keys to success in order for the team to achieve its goals?
EO: Coelho will need to fill the cleats of now-graduated Jazmyn Jackson in terms of hits and runs, but the budding sophomore star will likely have no trouble doing just that. Overall, the Bears will need to adjust their play in order to make up for the loss of seniors such as Jackson, Kobie Pettis and Taurie Pogue.
The Bears also added new assistant and pitching coach Anjelica Selden to their staff in the fall. Selden will hopefully help foster much-needed depth in Cal’s bullpen come spring. Most important for Cal will be taking the conference schedule one game at a time in order to prevent a fall from grace similar to the one that occurred last season. With proper adjustments, though, the Bears should manage.
SG: It’s going to be nearly impossible for the Bears to match the ridiculous numbers that will likely be put up by the usual suspects of UCLA/Oregon/Washington in the Pac-12. In this case, it’s going to be critical for Cal to muster some clutch hitting and maintain stellar defensive tactics as the season wears on.
Additionally, the Bears tallied the third-most errors in the conference, with 55, behind only Utah and Oregon State — that stat must be limited for Cal to have hopes of making the postseason. The Bears’ lack of offensive firepower will need to be replaced by stellar pitching and defensive perfection to make this season a success.
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