The back-to-back Bears are not shying away from their hectic, jam-packed schedule. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Cal is playing at a high caliber of competition against the nation’s best softball programs. With 26 games under its belt, Cal softball is changing the trajectory of the program by putting the team back on consistent tournament schedules and facing off against teams of varied competition.
With a big game coming up Friday, the Bears are in full training mode. Since Feb. 11, Cal has been taking on major tournaments to gain new skills and information about where it falls in reference to other teams. Every game that has been played serves as practice for the Pac-12 tournament that this season is looking forward to.
Speaking of the Pac-12, for the first time this season the Bears are hunting down a conference competitor: the Huskies. This game against No. 7 Washington will determine the way Cal begins its Pac-12 campaign.
Last year, Cal finished off the season with a 3-11 Pac-12 record. However, the dynamic and composition of Cal softball has changed significantly since last year: The team is rooted in underclassmen leadership. With a team that is nearly 87% underclassmen, the newbies are navigating the team through competition that would have been exposed to its seniors. However, this fresh team is being introduced to a new level of competition and taking it by storm, despite its minimal collective experience in collegiate softball.
Washington is a new obstacle for Cal to tackle. The winning history of the Bears against the Huskies does not veer in Cal’s favor, though. Cal softball has not defeated Washington since the 2016 season, in which it had a triple-header. After playing two games neck-and-neck but ultimately losing, the Bears came out on top in their final game. Since then, Cal has not been able to outperform Washington, a trend that continued in the 2021 season. Falling short to Washington in the three games that were played last season, Cal is the underdog going into this matchup.
Underdogs can often rise to the top, though. With Cal’s unbelievable lineup and unhittable pitching, it has a promising chance at dominating Washington. The superstars of Cal softball are finally breaking out of their shells and becoming the core protectors of the diamond.
Among these superstars, sophomore pitcher Haylei Archer has been carrying the team to victory with the whip of her arm. Curving and dropping, batters cannot tame her strikes and lay the bat on the ball. Archer has maneuvered her way through some tough games this season, including the first Baylor blowout of the Rainbow Wahine Classic.
Archer’s trusted co-pitcher, sophomore Sona Halajian, also dominates in the circle and has the capacity to carry the team to a win against the Huskies. After conquering both Hawaii and Baylor in this past weekend’s tournament, Halajian has proven herself as the battery of Cal softball.
The Bears’ bats are off the charts this season, with freshman Acacia Anders and sophomore Tatum Anzaldo pushing more homers than anyone else on the team. Stepping out of the batter’s box nearly every hit, these powerhouses put their bats to the ball nearly every time they are up to the plate. Anzaldo currently holds a .418 batting average and Anders stands at .296.
The batting averages and runs scored should only increase after Cal plays the Huskies.
In this upcoming triple-header, the Bears will be playing Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the Levine-Fricke Field in Berkeley.