Cal softball aiming to extend winning streak in Hawaii

A softball player winds her arm, preparing to throw the ball.
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Only the rain could stop the Cal softball team from inflicting further damage onto the team’s opponents at the Gaucho Classic last weekend after routs over both Bowling Green and UC Santa Barbara forced Mother Nature to intervene. The final two games in the weekender were canceled, but Cal didn’t need those to prove they are a force to be reckoned with.

The Bears let the bats fly in Santa Barbara, allowing their pitching and defense to take shape before conference play begins March 15 against Utah. The senior pitching duo of Kamalani Dung (6-3) and Zoe Conley (3-4) combined for two wins and 18 strikeouts while giving up only three runs in the process.

Ending the weekend errorless, Cal’s defense showed it can tighten things up when matched up against weaker opponents. The question remains whether the Bears can hold the same notion against the beasts of the Pac-12 throughout March and April to prove they are worthy of postseason glory.

The confidence gained through quality performances, though — no matter the talent level of the opponent — is priceless. The Bears will hope to extend their current four-game winning streak at the University of Hawaii’s Spring Fling Tournament starting Wednesday.

Cal will face St. Bonaventure twice, first Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. and again Friday at 1 p.m. In a Thursday doubleheader, the Bears will face Niagara and hosts Hawaii at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. They’ll close out the weekend Saturday against Southern Illinois Edwardsville at 2 p.m.

With another major opportunity to pad the win column and garner some much-needed assurance this weekend, Cal will need to focus on patching up the holes on the defensive side of the diamond to have any hope of succeeding in conference play. The Bears have 27 errors on the season, the most of any Pac-12 team.

Here’s a look at Cal’s opponents for this weekend:

St. Bonaventure (0-4)

The Bonnies ended their first slate of games winless, giving up a combined 28 runs and 37 hits to four below-average opponents. Their offense, however, wasn’t as abysmal. Senior infielder Alexandra Piergustavo ended the weekend with five hits, four RBIs and a home run. St. Bonaventure will face another Pac-12 opponent in Utah on Saturday.

Niagara (0-0)

The Purple Eagles have yet to play a single game so far this season. They ended last season with a 16-33 overall record, giving up more than 50 more runs than they scored in all of 2018. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll picked Niagara to finish ninth out of the 11 teams in the conference.

Hawaii (12-4)

Hawaii has flown out the gates and is winning at will. The team’s only notable loss was a 7-0 thumping at the hands of No. 2 UCLA, while its other three losses were narrowly decided by two runs or fewer. Senior infielder Nicole Lopez has provided the offensive spark with her .455 batting average, 25 hits, 23 runs scored, five home runs and 13 RBIs.

Southern Illinois Edwardsville (5-5)

The Cougars are even-keeled at five wins and losses, losing their most recent game to Drake at the Razorback Invitational, 3-2. Edwardsville had two home games canceled last weekend and will hope to return to winning ways in its first game of the weekend against the Bears on Saturday.

Spencer Golanka covers softball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @sgolanka.