After a weekend off due to COVID-19 complications within UCLA’s program, Cal softball was back on the dirt for a series at Washington. Unfortunately for the Bears, the No. 6 Huskies proved to be hostile hosts, sweeping Cal in convincing fashion. With lights-out pitching from All-American Gabbie Plain and an offense that blasted three home runs, Washington cruised to a five-inning, 8-0 mercy-rule victory in Thursday’s series opener.
But the Bears’ spirit was not crushed by such a defeat. The blue and gold wasted no time getting on the scoreboard against Plain in Friday afternoon’s match as a two-out, RBI single off the bat of D’Asha Saiki in the first gave Cal an early 1-0 lead. The Bears climbed back on top in the third after the Huskies evened the score, but Washington was able to undo Cal’s advantage again, plating three in the third and four in the fourth en route to an 8-4 victory.
While still unable to get in the win column, the Bears’ grit against Washington continued through the closing games of the series. In the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, Cal clawed back from a 4-1 deficit with the help of long balls from Makena Smith and Mikayla Coelho and headed into the bottom of the sixth trailing by just one run. Washington then went on to score two runs to win 6-3. On Saturday, the Bears hung with the Huskies through the first five and a half frames. Pitchers Sona Halajian and Chloe Romero held Washington to just two earned runs before defensive miscues by Cal ultimately put victory out of reach, and the Huskies capped off the series sweep with a 5-1 win.
Coelho, who went 6-for-12 in the series with three doubles and a home run, credited Washington and its dominant pitching.
“The Pac-12 is a hard conference, and Washington is ranked number six, so they’re a tough team,” Coelho said. “(Plain) is a great pitcher, so to score four runs off of someone like that Saturday was really good for us.”
Returning to California on the back of a six-game skid, Cal was able to flip the script against Saint Mary’s on Tuesday.
The Bears defeated the Gaels in the season’s home opener by way of an electrifying walk-off win. This time around, there was no need to come from behind. The Bears flew through the batting order in the top of the first, piecing together a two-out, four-run rally with a flurry of singles and a trio of walks. Saint Mary’s scraped a run across in the bottom of the frame, but Cal never looked back. Eight different Bears collected a hit in the 6-1 victory, and pitcher Haylei Archer went for four strong innings to improve to 6-3 on the season.
“It’s what makes us most unique. We’re hard to prepare for because our opponents don’t know what’s coming,” Smith said. “It’s pretty awesome to have that comfort and know that your teammate is going to get it done.”
Softball returns to Berkeley this Friday as Cal is set to host Utah for a four-game series. Both squads have just one conference win each. The contests will mark Levine-Fricke Field’s first taste of Pac-12 play since May 2019.
“With some fans in the stands, at our home field, where we have the advantage, it’s going to be awesome,” Smith said. “We’re going to come out hard, ready to play and ready to win.”
Allie Coyne covers softball. Contact her at [email protected].