The first-ever Pac-12 softball tournament took place last week, and it saw No. 3 Utah defeat No. 1 UCLA to win the division championship and secure an automatic qualifier into the 2023 NCAA softball tournament.
The Bears entered the tournament as the sixth-seeded team in the Pac-12 and faced No. 3 Utah to kickstart their tournament.
Cal had already beaten the Utes in a regular season series. But adjustments were made, and matchups were exploited in this fourth meeting between the two teams, leading to a Utah victory in a more high-stakes scenario.
The Utes found their groove in the circle and on the plate early in the game. They left the Bears scoreless in the first inning and followed up with five runs scored later in the first.
The Bears have shown the ability to fight their way back into games and lead the Pac-12 in home runs (67) with the help of five players who sent one out more than five times this season, including team leads Makena Smith, with 14, Kacey Zobac and Elon Butler with nine apiece and Acacia Anders with six. Together, the five contributed 46 home runs, making them responsible for 68.7% of the team’s total home runs this season.
However, a five-run first inning by the Utes was too much for Cal, marking the beginning of the end.
Cal got on the scoreboard in the second inning after Zobac stole home plate on a wild pitch — but that would be the last time Cal scored until the seventh inning. Utah answered back with a run of its own in the fourth inning to increase its lead back up to five. The game wrapped up with a late RBI by Cal’s Smith, which brought in Tatum Anzaldo to score Cal’s second run of the game; Cal finished with a 6-2 loss in its first and only game of the tournament.
A trend that has been attached to this Cal season has been the fact that it is an above-average hitting team, but with a tendency to leave countless runners on base, which leads to falling behind in must-win games.
Though the outcome was not what Cal wanted, this season has been one to remember for this program. Head coach Chelsea Spencer, in just her third year, has seemingly created a winning culture.
Despite an underwhelming performance in the postseason, the Bears’ season is still far from over as they look to rebound from their disappointing loss heading into the Women’s College World Series.
The blue and gold play in one of the more top-heavy conferences in the NCAA, and their experience against the Pac-12 could help lead a deep run.
The last time Cal claimed the title was back in 2002 when Spencer was a member of the national championship team.
Cal is set to play in the Norman Regional at Marita Hynes Field beginning May 19. The Bears will first play Missouri and will look to match with the winner of No. 1 Oklahoma vs. Hofstra. The regional round is in a double-elimination format and the lone team to advance will compete in the best-of-three super regionals.