According to the original recipe, revenge is best served cold or, at the very least, chilled for about 24 hours. The duck confit the Bears prepared Saturday, however, was most assuredly a product of massive amounts of heat in the kitchen, with a smoking-hot offense flipping Cal’s two-game losing script against Oregon and earning the team its third conference win of the season.
The Bears (24-22, 3-14) avoided their fourth series sweep on the year by sneaking away with their first victory against the Ducks (19-22, 4-11) since 2016. Even this spot of sunshine, though, was not enough to burn through the cloud hanging over Cal’s season, which is currently thicker than that over UC Berkeley’s glade on 4/20 — the Bears have not won a single conference series this year, and dropping two games to Oregon sunk their Pac-12 winning percentage to a bleak .176.
In the series opener Thursday, the Bears faced yet another frustrating loss at the hands of a Ducks team that was and is only marginally better than themselves. A two-out double in the fifth inning after four silent frames put the first and only run on the board for Oregon, and the Bears couldn’t muster enough to match — Cal left nine runners on base and was struck out 11 times. Senior Lindsay Rood took the collar for the first of two times during the series, and the rest of the Bears’ offense sputtered in suit.
Game two had both the series and postseason hopes on the line for the Bears — a win against the Ducks to tie the series would have put Cal in much better favor to make an appearance in the regional championships. An RBI triple at the bottom of the first and a solo home run in the third from junior outfielder Haley Cruse got Oregon rolling, and there was no stopping the Ducks once they had taken flight. The Bears were shut out for the second game in a row in the 4-0 loss. Cal’s Zoe Conley picked up her 14th season loss, giving up four hits and two runs in only three innings in the circle.
Up until Saturday’s second match, Oregon was able to capitalize on every opportunity the Bears gave them to earn the series, a skill Cal has been largely unable to perfect. Game three, however, saw the role reversal Cal has been waiting for all season come into existence.
A pair of Oregon errors early in the opening frame allowed Cal senior Krysten McCue to earn the first run of the day after being walked and making it home on freshman Makena Smith’s at-bat. Amani Bradley then knocked in Lauren Espalin and Smith before Jordan Fines, Karlee Sparacino and Destiny Blueford decided to jump on the bang-up bandwagon to round out Cal’s five-run inning with their combination of hits and walks.
The Bears will have to completely reverse their fortunes this season if they want to remain in contention for the postseason, going nearly if not perfect in the rest of their nine games. The last time Cal did not appear in the postseason was 2014 when its 23-29 record marked the very first time that the program failed to make regionals under head coach Diane Ninemire in her 32-year tenure.
“It’s going to take everything we have in order to talk about postseason,” Ninemire said in a statement. “We’ll have to win the majority of our remaining games, but we have to take it one game at a time.”
The Bears will face Nevada in a two-game series starting Tuesday before welcoming Arizona to Berkeley for the last homestand of the year Friday.