The all-important month of March is on the brink for the Cal softball team, which has two weeks to iron out the wrinkles before seeing its first Pac-12 opponent.
After starting the season 9-7 (1-6 against ranked opponents), the Bears are slated for their lightest set of games so far, facing three teams over four games in the Gaucho Classic in Santa Barbara this weekend.
Cal will face Bowling Green and UC Santa Barbara at 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Friday and will close the short weekender on Saturday by facing LIU Brooklyn and Santa Barbara at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., respectively.
With no ranked opponents in sight, Cal can enter the weekend with an immense amount of confidence. The team is not far from where it’d like to be at this point, sprinkling its brightest moments sporadically throughout this first leg of the season. It will be key for the Bears to harness some consistency on the defensive side while continuing to cause problems for opposing pitchers and hitters.
There were many positives to take from last weekend’s display in Palm Springs, however. Two names, in particular, come to mind: senior infielder Lindsay Rood and pitcher Kamalani Dung, who have been putting up MVP-type numbers so far this season.
Rood, who hit a walk-off RBI triple against Long Beach, has tallied a .439 batting average with 25 hits (nine extra-base hits), 16 runs and seven RBIs. Her offensive prowess has mitigated the inconsistency on the other side of the diamond. Dung has also continued to weather the storm by averaging more than a strikeout an inning in her 10 appearances this season, even as her ERA (currently at 2.45) is abnormally high at this point.
It’s no secret that the Bears have faced arguably the stiffest competition they have ever seen at this stage in a season. This schedule brings not only its own set of challenges to the team but also a more-than-suitable dress rehearsal for Pac-12 competition beginning March 15.
Here’s a look at Cal’s opponents for this weekend:
Bowling Green (4-4)
The Falcons dropped all three games at the Upstate Classic in Spartanburg, South Carolina before storming back with four wins out of five in the GWU Softball Tournament. The surge was led by sophomore infielder Nikki Sorgi, who has a .421 batting average with eight hits and seven RBIs.
UC Santa Barbara (4-9)
The Gauchos have lost four straight games and eight of their last nine. They, along with Cal, struggled mightily against ranked opponents last weekend in the Mary Nutter Classic and will hope to get back to winning ways in their house this time around.
LIU Brooklyn (8-6)
The Blackbirds have won five straight games, showing they are more than capable of causing problems this weekend. But LIU Brooklyn has faced significantly weaker competition up until this point and will have to adjust to the stiff lineup. Freshman pitcher Elena Valenzuela will look to silence opposing hitters and build on her 4-1 record, 1.84 ERA and four complete games.