Softball desperate to flip the script against Washington

Kavya Narendra Babu /File

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The sirens have been ringing in Strawberry Canyon for a while now. They have become a fight song of sorts for a Cal softball team that is 1-7 in conference play this season, a team that is largely devoid of any solution for its pitching and defensive woes.

A 5-1 win for the Bears against the University of Pacific on Wednesday will do little to change the attitude of their opponent this weekend, No. 6 Washington, who is riding into town on a seven-game winning streak after getting swept by UCLA earlier in the season.

Cal turned a few heads in its last time out in conference play against the Bruins last weekend, narrowly falling to No. 1 UCLA by one run apiece in the first two games of the series. The Bears showed a tremendous amount of defensive discipline and were able to cause problems at the plate against arguably the country’s top pitching staff.

Two late mistakes in both games, however, prevented the Bears from earning shocking upsets; any hopes of victory were obliterated in game three after they were convincingly beaten 6-0. The evident shortcomings in Cal’s squad this season came to fruition at pivotal moments, a tendency the Bears will hope to fix before it’s too late. Cal’s 46 errors this season are the most of any team in the Pac-12 so far this season.

“We have to finish it, shut the door and complete the game. If we can just mature a little bit more in that area and get a break here and there with some timely hits, I feel like we can play anybody in the country,” said head coach Diane Ninemire. “This is a young team with a lot of talent. Now, we just need to go back to the drawing board and get ready for a very good University of Washington team.”

The Bears are beating Washington in nearly every major hitting category, with a better team average, more RBI, hits and runs than the Huskies this season. Washington, however, has struck out the most batters in the Pac-12 this season (324) and boast a team ERA of 1.73. Huskies senior pitcher Taran Alvelo has the most wins (15) and most strikeouts (172) in the Pac-12 so far this season.

At the plate, senior infielder Lindsay Rood continues to tear through opposing pitchers, tallying a Pac-12-leading 57 hits, which is also the second most hits in the country. Rood is tied for second in the Pac-12 with Cal’s own junior infielder Destiny Blueford for triples, each of them earning four so far.

The biggest power threat at the plate for the Huskies is redshirt junior Morganne Flores, who has a .311 batting average and 11 home runs so far this season. Junior infielder Sis Bates is slated to have a big series as well, with her team-leading .370 batting average and 40 hits enough to distract any opposing pitcher from her threat on the base pass — she has scored 31 runs in 35 games and has nine for nine in stolen base attempts so far this season.

All signs point toward the series being decided on the mound, however, hinging on which team can keep the opposing offense at bay. Cal’s senior flamethrower Kamalani Dung is poised to continue her lights-out form, having only given up one run and six hits in her last two starts.

First pitch against the Huskies is at 3 p.m. Friday at Levine-Fricke Field, with game two on Saturday at 1 p.m. The series concludes at noon Sunday, with each game being streamed on calbears.com.

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