The season has trickled down to a close, but one principal team has yet to be played: No. 6 UCLA.
In the final series of the season, the Bears are about to leave every ounce of effort they have on the field as they face off against the Bruins at the Easton Stadium. But this incoming competition begs one question: Does Cal know what it’s up against?
UCLA’s softball program has held a reigning title in the nation for decades. Having won the 2019 NCAA National Championship, the Bruins are placed high on a pedestal by their fans and are feared by their opponents for their big bats and scrappy fielders.
However, UCLA’s pitching mound has undergone dramatic shifts in the past year. Four-time All-American Bruin pitcher Rachel Garcia retired her 00 jersey last season, making this the first season the team has had to fend off its opponents without her untouchable pitches.
UCLA’s mound is currently being held down by redshirt junior Megan Faraimo, accompanied by relief pitchers graduate student Lauren Shaw and redshirt senior Holly Azevedo. The Bruins’ effective pitching shutouts are in the past, but their diving catches and swift home runs are still at their prime.
UCLA and Cal share an interesting competitive history. The California rivals have not played each other since 2019, the year the Bruins took the national championship. Given its obvious prominence, UCLA beat the Bears three times in a three-game weekend series; one with extra innings and neck-and-neck scores, and another with sizable margins.
Cal has not walked off the field with a win against the Bruins since 2012. However, from 2010 to 2012, the Bears launched a winning campaign against the team. Within these years, Cal managed to beat UCLA once in the 2010 weekend series and achieved a clean sweep in the 2011 and 2012 series. These wins came at a time when the Bruins were coming off a national championship win. Or, more concisely, while the Bruins were coming out of hibernation, the Bears put them back in.
It is hard to predict how the upcoming weekend series will unfold. Cal currently holds a 28-24-1 overall record and an 8-13 conference record. UCLA’s record is substantially better: It stands 40-8 overall and 16-5 in Pac-12 competitions.
However, the Bears have a way of coming out of their dugouts when faced with a challenge, jumping on their competition for at least one game of the series. Against No. 25 Arizona, Cal walked off the field with two wins, an accomplishment that highlights the program’s potential to go head-to-head with the Bruins and grab a win.
Depending on how the Bears perform this weekend, they will be closing out their season on either a high note or a low one. Either way, the blue and gold has room for improvement. With a young squad and a developing pitching roster, Cal has managed to steal abundant wins for such an inexperienced team this season. Their last test of the season is UCLA.
The competition will commence May 12 in Los Angeles. The Bears will face the wrath of the Bruins on Friday and Saturday as well, marking the conclusion of a suspenseful season for Cal softball.
Alisa Steel covers softball and women’s swim and dive. Contact her at [email protected].