Ultimate test: Can Cal conquer Utah?

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Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff

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Can the Bears break the pattern?

Since the DeMarini Invitational, Cal has yet to conquer three straight games in a row. Especially against its Pac-12 rivals, Cal has not yet gained the urge to sweep its competition clean with an undefeated series.

For three weekends straight, Cal has played three different Pac-12 teams. All of these tournaments seem to highlight the Bears’ individual successes, but regret to underscore the team’s chemistry. Typically, the work of a powerhouse pitcher such as sophomore Sona Halajian or big batters such as freshman Acacia Anders are at the core of a team’s success, rather than entire team efforts. Nevertheless, Cal simply could not tip the scale in its favor to emerge undefeated in any of these series. 

Against No. 7 Washington, Cal still had to shake off the nerves at first, dropping the first game but dominating in the next two. Anders and Halajian emerged as the heroic champions of the second and third games, turning the tides of how Cal softball typically performs against Washington. However, just as tides are high and low, so were the Bears.

Cal has had some beginner’s luck against No. 12 Oregon. A run-rule shutdown of the Ducks gave the Bears newfound confidence. However, Cal was once again humbled by its next two games on the diamond: two losses. Though both close games, Cal lacked endurance and reliance on its basic throws, swings and pitches. The Ducks became the predator and the Bears became the prey.

Most recently, No. 23 Oregon State toppled Cal and all of its expectations for this past weekend. Coming out of the dugout with fire in its eyes, Oregon State held Cal to a zero-run weekend for the first time this season. 

Three losses in a row can do damage to a team’s morale. However, this weekend presents the perfect opportunity for Cal softball to challenge its past habits. 

The Bears are flying down to Salt Lake City to play ball at the Dumke Family Softball Stadium. From Friday to Sunday, Cal will be challenged to a three-game series once again — but this time, the clean sweep is crucial. 

The Utes are the first unranked Pac-12 team that the Bears are facing off against. While better competitors lead to greater growth, playing a team of less or equal caliber could reset Cal’s engines and sharpen its dulled edges.

In the past, Cal and Utah have had suspenseful tournaments, but Cal has not yet feasted a full domination on the Utes. 

In 2021, in a four-game series, Cal dominated three of the games and only lost by one run in its fallen game. In 2019, the Bears lost two of the three games, and battled out their winning game in extra innings. However, in 2018, notably the best year for Cal softball in recent history, the Bears pushed the Utes off the scoreboard and left the weekend with three wins under their belt.

Cal’s team has been compared to the 2018 softball squad many times this year. With the majority underclassmen team, Cal softball has wiped the slate clean and began playing with a new demeanor since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, while the team is still functioning as an inexperienced group, it is growing into a cohesive unit, and maybe its upcoming battle against Utah can be the turning point of its season.

The bats will begin to swing at 4 p.m. MDT on Friday, and will produce an outcome that will significantly affect the remaining trajectory of Cal softball’s season and will tell us if the Bears can finally break their weekend series patterns.

Alisa Steel covers softball and women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].