After starting off the 2022 season as hot as a habanero at 14-3, Cal softball has gone cold with a record of 8-14 since. The most recent series against the Utes was no different, with two consecutive losses to end the weekend following a first game win. Sometimes in softball, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
A slugfest took place at Dumke Family Softball Stadium, with a combined 64 hits and 32 runs scored by both teams. Cal’s leadoff duo of Acacia Anders and Tatum Anzaldo were like two peas in a pod, boosting the offense with six hits each, while Sona Halajian, Kacey Zobac, Sophie Medellin and Alexis Bishop brought the power stroke to Salt Lake. However, these efforts were all sizzle and no steak as they were not enough to give Cal a series victory, managing to only take a W in the first game.
Friday’s game one delivered an intriguing and hard-fought come-from-behind win for the Bears. After starting off down 5-0 from RBI hits by Utah’s Julia Jimenez, Kendall Lundberg and Jordyn Gasper, Cal started to chip away inning by inning with clutch hitting by Zobac, Bishop and Hope Alley, tying the game at five apiece to take the game into extra innings.
With ducks on the pond and something brewing for the Bears in extras, Anders and Halajian put their team ahead with a miraculous effort to end up on top after eight innings played.
The second game of the series constituted another bumpy outing for pitcher Haylei Archer. After starting the year with six wins to only two losses, Archer has had a rough last month of games with six losses and has yet to record a win. Her ERA is up to 3.37, which is the worst it has been since the first game of the season. Archer’s ERA has been under 2.00 for much of the season, which was at an elite level.
With Cal’s 8-2 loss in Saturday’s game, Archer’s record is now at 6-8 as she picked up her third straight loss. With the series tied 1-1, the Bears looked to rebound for game three.
The comeback magic of game one was handed back to Cal by the Utes, however, in this series finale. After a four-run first inning by the Bears’ offense, the rest of the game proved to be all Utah; the Utes scored six runs unanswered to hand the away team its second straight loss.
What gave Utah the upper hand in this series was its ability to put pressure on Cal early in each of the games, scoring nearly 60% of its runs in the first two innings. Also, innings-eater Sydney Sandez was able to keep the Bears to minimal damage in the last two games, as she made a pitching appearance in all three games for a total of 16.2 IP.
On the Bears’ end, noticeable factors and determinants of how the blue and gold performed were the errors and lack of clutch hitting. In the first game of the series, Cal’s defense only allowed one error, which enabled the offense to flourish. In contrast, the next two error-ridden games affected its flow of play and took focus away from hitting, which caused the team’s self-inflicted rupture. The errors, combined with runners left on base, stymied the much-needed comebacks.
Cal’s lack of execution in scoring opportunities needs to change if the team wants to find its bread and butter and start a win streak. These minor elements are holding Cal softball back from its full potential, as the team stands just a few steps away from being among the cream of the crop.
Cal now has bigger fish to fry as it approaches a three-game series against its rivals across the Bay. Stanford sits in fourth place in the Pac-12 standings, so this matchup will test the Bears’ resilience and ability to have a short-term memory, take these losses with a grain of salt and move forward.