Sure, everyone has skeletons in their closet. But very few are as capable of wrecking a softball season as the Bears’ have been.
Cal softball (23-20, 2-12) is seeing specters of seasons past, as the team was downed 2-1 by Oregon State (21-15, 3-10) in Cal’s penultimate homestand of the year. The Beavers won the series just like last year but let the Bears escape with a single victory under their belts.
What was once the main reinforcement of a sturdy team, the Bears’ bullpen has quickly devolved into just another skeleton occupying valuable hangers and space in an increasingly cramped Cal closet. In game one, starting redshirt senior Zoe Conley gave up five hits and two earned runs in the three innings she pitched, only to be followed by a performance from senior Kamalani Dung that surrendered six hits and an equal number of earned runs.
Sporadically lighting up opposing batters and occasionally silencing some of the most potent offensive players in the Pac-12 will not be enough to land the Bears where they want to be by the end of the year — the postseason.
In game two, the Bears seemed to leave their jerseys in the closet and instead outfitted the defense that has plagued the team like pictures of myself from middle school have bedeviled me (And to any of you who need to hear this: Side-swept bangs will do you no favors — not now, not ever.) While the outfield proved more durable than it has been for much of the season, play faltered once again in the circle during crucial moments — the Beavers earned half of their six total runs off a two-RBI double and an RBI base hit with two outs in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game, robbing Cal of its early lead and instead gifting the Bears their 10th conference loss in a row.
As was the case this weekend, the Bears’ successes were never enjoyed for long and were punctuated by shortcomings all across the field. The team’s offense, though, clearly remains their crutch — Lindsay Rood, whose characteristically aggressive play seems to be getting more and more vindictive with each loss, totaled five hits to lead the offense this weekend and stole base three times on Sunday, putting her at 27/27 this season with her conference-leading fleet-footedness.
With help from consistently threatening at-bats from Destiny Blueford, Karlee Sparacino, Lauren Espalin and Makena Smith, the Bears were able to amass 25 hits over the series and earn their second conference win of the season in the final matchup. Dung was also named the player of the game for allowing no earned runs and striking out four of the 18 batters she faced in her five-inning outing. Dung now totes an 11-7 record after splitting the series with one win and one loss.
Despite their lonely victory, the Bears now rest firmly at the bottom of the Pac-12, with their losses bestowing unto the Beavers a much more solid seventh-place standing.
The ills that cost Cal wins are looking more and more incurable, and with the postseason rapidly approaching, the Bears will need to seek a silver bullet to put their patchwork of a squad together in time for playoffs, should they make them.
Cal is running out of chances to prove itself, and the time is ripe for a comeback if the players have it in them. The upcoming series against Oregon, which is now ranked just above Cal in eighth place, is even more pivotal for the Bears to step up to the plate — if they don’t, it could cost them the postseason.