As UC Berkeley nears the spring semester’s commencement, Cal softball’s focus hasn’t waned on the diamond.
After being swept on the road by the Washington Huskies almost two weeks ago, the blue and gold have responded powerfully with five straight victories.
The latest such victory was a 9-8, 13-inning-long battle against the Santa Clara Broncos in Berkeley.
The game was tied at four apiece from the fourth inning to the 11th — and was virtually over after the Broncos went up four runs.
Down to their last strike, the Bears miraculously evened the score in the bottom half of the 11th inning after a Makena Smith three-run shot.
Then, two innings later, Smith walked off the game with a base hit that brought Tatum Anzaldo home.
Smith, who was drafted 15th in the Women’s Pro Fastpitch Draft by the Smash It Sports Vipers on Monday, said she was proud of her team’s fight — particularly the energy her teammates had, considering it was a Wednesday game and during school hours.
“I mean, it feels good,” Smith said. “It was a tough win to get out because midweek (games) are always hard.”
The Bears survived a five-for-six day from the Broncos’ Ashley Trierweiler, who is second in batting average in the nation at .527.
Although Cal barely came out on top, it did manage to notch a record for the history books. The win extended the Bears’ record versus Santa Clara to 88-0 — an impressive feat, no matter the parameters.
Now sitting at 29-12-1, the blue and gold will shift their attention to their cross-Bay rivals.
Cal heads to Palo Alto for a three-game series against the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal, which begins Friday.
Although Stanford is 32-9 overall, the team is 4-6 in its past 10 games and is as vulnerable as it’s been all year.
After mediocre Pac-12 play thus far, the blue and gold have the opportunity to jump their rival in the standings. Historically, the Bears handle the crimson and white quite well — winning 66% of all the matchups.
Last season, Cal took the series with two wins and a loss. However, the three games were held at the Bears’ home, Levine-Fricke Field.
The blue and gold meet Stanford after outscoring opponents 44-22 throughout their five-game win streak. In the same time frame, the Cardinal have been outscored 12-14.
Cal isn’t just controlling the circle, but the team’s bats have also been embarrassing defense after defense.
Smith, who had four RBIs against Santa Clara, said she wants to see the entire lineup click simultaneously against Stanford.
“I’d like to see, top to bottom, (our) lineup get liner hits,” Smith said. “We’ve had the top of the lineup produce, we’ve had the bottom of the lineup produce, kind of on separate days. I believe we have what it takes.”
The Bears will face a Cardinal program that has the lowest ERA (1.52), hits allowed (191) and runs allowed (63) in the Pac-12. For context, Oregon is third in runs allowed with 113.
Cal hasn’t seen a better pitching unit thus far and probably won’t see one in the near future.
A rivalry as historic as Cal vs. Stanford always means fun. Fans of both schools can agree that each institution, or in this instance, team, pushes the other to be better — which gives fans all they can ask for.
Boyd & Jill Smith Family Stadium is the place to be this upcoming weekend. Expect tightly contested games as the Bears’ hot offense faces the Cardinal’s stone-cold pitching unit — also remember the Cardinal and Bears have split their past four series against each other.
“I think that we’re going into Stanford with a lot of confidence … we want to take it to them,” Smith said.