As the sun sets on the 2019 Cal softball season, it’s only fitting that a team that used the metaphor of “making music” to represent its successes against some of the best teams in the nation gets an outro to match its respectable performances. Who better to serenade a group of athletes who did it their way than Frank Sinatra himself?
After dropping two of three games in last weekend’s series against No. 25 Arizona State, the end of Cal’s (28-27, 5-18 in Pac-12) season is likely near, forcing the team to face the final curtain. The Bears’ No. 64 spot in the RPI rankings leaves them stranded in a position that will likely bar them from reaching the postseason. However, their case, of which they’re not yet certain, is liable to change, especially with the potential viability that Saturday’s win against the Sun Devils gave them.
The Bears have traveled down each and every highway in recent seasons, but since 2017, every time a highway has led them to Tempe, their journey has resulted in a loss. In Saturday’s 8-3 win, though, Cal seemed to return to its former glory after Kamalani Dung’s six strikeouts earned the senior her 13th and potentially final win of the season.
Cal amassed 31 hits in three games, earning double-digit hits in a series for the first time in nearly a month. Freshman Makena Smith’s 3-RBI day led the Bears to their largest margin of victory in conference play all year.
Regrets? Needless to say, Cal has had a few over the season, but none so bitter as its recurring inability to secure a series win — the Bears have lost every single one of their conference series this year. They have made 67 errors and given up a lead at least once in every series outside of the Oregon and Arizona State matchups.
No matter how many careful steps the Bears have taken, their competition has always been prodigious — every Pac-12 team aside from Cal and Utah are in the top 55 teams in the RPI rankings, with five of them falling in the top 30 and three of them soundly in the top five.
Yet even when the Bears bit off more than they could chew, they had every opportunity to spiral in the wrong direction. Instead, Cal remained relatively steadfast all season when there was doubt. The Bears have had their share of losing, and although they faced nine teams currently ranked in ESPN’s top 25 — may I say, not in a shy way — Cal did everything it could to stay afloat this season by playing the game its way.
The box scores shows they’ve taken blows, but the Bears still have a chance at a postseason encore.
Even if the Bears’ 10-6 loss against Arizona State was the final game of the season, and even if this end marks only the second time that they have failed to make the postseason in Diane Ninemire’s 32 years at the helm, the Bears have every reason to be proud of their performances this year. Notwithstanding the fact that Cal was projected to finish fifth in conference and instead finished dead last, the team’s batting average has increased from last year even without extra postseason games.
After having “My Way” on the charts for an astounding 75 weeks, Sinatra himself went on to make even more hits, and if making hits is something Cal is good at now, there’s no telling what the future has in store for it.
The NCAA postseason selection show is on May 12; until then, the Bears will have to hope that the curtains have not fully closed on their shot at competing on college softball’s biggest stage.