Cal softball desperate for stability, will travel to defending champs

A softball player swings at the ball.
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It’s time to call a spade a spade. No matter how explosive Cal senior Lindsay Rood has been at the plate with her Pac-12-leading 65 hits and 27 stolen bases or how many times senior Kamalani Dung has launched a fastball past an opposing hitter, the Cal softball team (23-20) can’t win games when it matters at the moment.

Giving up two of three games last weekend to Oregon State was icing on the cake, given the abysmal last three weeks for the Bears. Cal remains dead last in the Pac-12 with a 2-12 record, and what were once cuts and bruises are now open wounds that may be beyond repair. On the off chance that the Bears return to contention for the postseason, they’ll need to go through reigning Pac-12 champions Oregon (17-21) — a team they haven’t beaten since 2016.

The Ducks haven’t had the most glamorous championship defense so far this season, as they occupy the eighth spot in the Pac-12 standings with a 2-10 conference record. For the second week running, Cal’s Oregon-based opponent will have an underperforming offense and pitching staff. The Ducks have tallied a .262 batting average and a .400 slugging percentage through 38 games.

Sophomore transfer Jordan Dail has been Oregon’s workhorse on the mound so far this season, with a conference-leading 167.2 innings pitched and 26 starts. Her 180 strikeouts rank second in the Pac-12 only to Washington’s All-American senior sensation Taran Alvelo, who was drafted eighth overall in this week’s National Pro Fastpitch draft. Oregon freshman Allee Bunker leads her team with a team-high 39 hits and 22 runs, having played in every game so far this season for the Ducks.

The Bears have their work cut out for them from now until the end of the season. Despite their faults, Cal has seen a flurry of individual success at the plate and on the mound — a running theme so far this season. Sophomore Mikayla Coelho leads the team in home runs (seven) and ranks second in the Pac-12 with 26 walks. Freshman Alexandra Perez has also turned some heads on the mound with a 5-0 record and a 2.10 ERA that ranks seventh in the conference.

Collectively, the Bears have scored 61 runs with two outs so far this season, which is more than a quarter of their overall run production. These positives, combined with their good chemistry as a team and coaching staff, need to begin translating into winning results if Cal wants a noble finish to the season.

First pitch at Jane Sanders Stadium is at 5 p.m. Thursday, with game two kicking off at 7 p.m. Friday. The three-game series wraps up Saturday at noon, with all games being broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

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