Cal softball leaves Florida tournament with stunning wins, disappointing losses

Batter swings at ball on home base and the catcher extends their arm in anticipation.
Michael Wan/File

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Valentine’s Day can bring out the best and worst in all of us. If you’re single, you spend every second of the day wondering why and maybe allocate a few of those seconds to treating yourself to a whole bag of Doritos and downing a bottle of wine (not speaking from experience). If you’re in a relationship, there’s a good chance that thoughts of Valentines and exes past cross your mind at least a couple times, and no one wants to venture into that territory — but at least you’re not single.

Cal softball, similarly, seemed to hit preseason highs and lows this weekend at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational in Florida, where the Bears played five teams — four of which were ranked in the top 25, according to Softball America — and lost to three of them.

In the first game of the tournament, the Bears took on No. 7 Texas, and the old adage of “messing with the bull and getting the horns” proved true. Cal was shut out 10-0 in just five innings, as per the run rule. Pitchers Zoe Conley and Alexandra Perez combined for only six strikeouts in five innings, giving the Longhorns a seven-run lead by the fourth inning. Texas had back-to-back three-run innings, which also happens to be how many hits Cal amassed all game.

The Bears were not about to let that be the weekend’s headline, however, and they upset No. 20 James Madison 7-2 for Cal’s first win against the Dukes in program history. Cal’s seven runs were scored by six different players, and the offensive showing provided a glimpse of just how dangerous the Bears can be when they’re on their A-game. Kamalani Dung and her 11 strikeouts allowed Cal’s offense to focus on nothing other than getting runs, which is exactly what Perez did with her two-out grand slam in the third inning that sent the Bears soaring past the Dukes.

But what goes up must come down, and the Bears dropped another game to No. 17 Oklahoma State the next day. Cal had the lead in the first, but it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived after a fielding error cost the Bears three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Despite solid pitching from both Conley and reliever Dung, the Bears couldn’t muster a strong-enough offensive comeback and gave the Cowgirls a 4-1 win.

That narrative didn’t hold for the doubleheader game against Notre Dame, however. Cal followed the loss to OSU with a 7-6 nail-biter over the Fighting Irish, coming back from a 6-2 deficit to win in the eighth inning. Just as things unraveled for Cal in its previous game, Notre Dame’s pitching came completely unglued in the bottom of the seventh — Amani Bradley, Sabrina Nunez, Mikayla Coelho, Lindsay Rood and Lauren Espalin joined forces to earn Cal’s four-run frame.

“Tonight proved the character of the team,” said Cal head coach Diane Ninemire. “No matter the odds that were against them in the game today, they pulled together.”

The weekend was punctuated by a loss to No. 22 Minnesota in a showdown between the Golden Bears and the Golden Gophers. Despite stellar pitching from Dung, Cal’s offense never reached the same heights, and the Bears were shut out 0-4.

Cal will face St. Mary’s (1-4), a team that has been run-ruled three times already this season, on Wednesday.

Don’t worry, Cal — if I can forget about my ex, there’s no question that you can start winning games against ranked teams.

Emily Ohman is an assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].