Cal Visits Sacramento State, Hosts Saint Mary's To Start 2021
BERKELEY - Almost a full calendar year from its last contest, the California softball team begins the 2021 season with two games, including the home opener, this weekend. The Golden Bears open the campaign at Sacramento State on Saturday, Feb. 20, at noon and then host Saint Mary's on Sunday, Feb. 21, at noon at Levine Fricke-Field.
Due to recent COVID-19 developments within the program, Cal softball cannot field a complete roster for its games this weekend. Therefore, the originally scheduled doubleheaders this weekend have been reduced to one game each day. Due to local health guidelines, fans are not allowed to attend home games.
Saturday's short trip to the state capital will officially start the Chelsea Spencer era for the Cal softball program. A Cal alumna, Spencer won an NCAA title during an All-American career with the Bears before embarking on a coaching career. A shortstop, Spencer was part of four straight Women's College World Series teams at Cal, including the 2002 NCAA Championship squad. The Oakland native returns to Cal after spending the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Texas and the 2013-18 seasons at Oregon.
Spencer added assistant coaches Mitch Roberts and Becca Mueller, and volunteer assistant coach Kailee Cuico to round out her coaching staff. Roberts guided Tulsa pitchers to boast the sixth-best ERA in the country at 1.48 last season. Each of the Golden Hurricane starting pitchers finished the campaign with an ERA under 3.00, stifling opposing hitters to a batting average under .200 on the year (.198). Mueller boosted the Ball State offense to multiple national rankings inside the top 35 in her lone year with the Cardinals. The vast improvements included a 26th ranking in on-base percentage (.405), up from a .365 mark in 2019. Spencer and Cuico worked together on the Oregon softball coaching staff from 2015-18 and at Texas from 2019-20.
The Cal offense boasts many potent bats, and the power starts with sophomore Makena Smith, who was recently named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List. In 2020, Smith paced the Bears in hitting with a .481 batting average that ranked tied for first in the Pac-12 and tied for 21st in the nation. The 2019 Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection is enjoying a 19-game hitting streak dating back to last season.
Cal's 10 freshmen posted big hits throughout the abbreviated 2020 season. Three of Cal's top six batting averages came from freshmen - Candace Yingling (.313), D'Asha Saiki (.299) and Kacey Zobac (.291). Yingling's two home runs tied for second on the team, while Saiki ranked second on the team with 18 RBI and Zobac's 13 runs scored ranked third on the team.
Chloe Romero and Alexandra Perez logged the vast majority of the work in the circle in 2020. In the Pac-12 ranks a year ago, Romero finished fourth in innings pitched (78.1) and Perez was fifth at 72.1 innings pitched per game. True freshman Haylei Archer and fellow freshman Sona Halajian - who did not compete last season - should bolster the pitching staff in 2021.
Cal heads to Stanford next weekend to face the Cardinal in two non-conference games and Cal Baptist twice on The Farm. The Bears will play four games in two days, starting with a matchup against Cal Baptist on Friday, March 26, at 3 p.m.
Cal All-Time Against Sacramento State And Saint Mary's
Cal is 68-21 all-time against Sacramento State. The Bears prevailed, 3-1, in nine innings, in their most-recent contest on March 20, 2019.
The Bears have dominated the all-time series against Saint Mary's with a current record of 64-2. In addition, Cal defeated the Gaels in all three meetings last season, twice in Fresno and a 5-4 victory in Moraga.
Cal has won three of its last four season openers. In the 2020 opener, the Bears fell to Florida International, 6-1. Karlee Sparacino belted a home run for Cal's lone run of the night.
Smith named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List
Makena Smith, who paced the Bears in hitting with a .481 batting average that ranked tied for first in the Pac-12 and tied for 21st in the nation in 2020, was recently named to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List.
The 2019 Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection is currently enjoying a 19-game hitting streak. Smith batted .600 in the final tournament of the 2020 season at the JMU Dukes Invitational, going 9-for-15 with two home runs, a double, six runs scored and four RBI.
In the Pac-12 ranks last year, Smith finished tied for second in hits (37), tied for seventh in slugging percentage (.727), eighth in on-base percentage (.512) and tied for eighth in doubles with seven.
The top 25 finalists for the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced on April 21.
Since the 2021 schedule was originally announced, there have been some changes to the Bears' 2021 slate. Cal will head to Stanford for a non-conference tournament against the Cardinal and Cal Baptist, facing each squad twice on Feb. 26 and 27. The next day, the Bears remain in the South Bay, taking on Santa Clara. When the Bears head to Fresno from March 12-13, the Bears will now face UC Davis and Fresno State twice each over the course of the two days after origionally scheduled to play Idaho State in Fresno.
Softball Inks Four Signees
Cal signed four future Golden Bears to National Letters of Intent on Nov. 11. Three of the four signees are California natives, along with one from Colorado. The California signees are outfielders Olivia Silvestre (San Ramon) and Mika Lee (Redlands), and pitcher Annabel Teperson (Novato). Fellow pitcher Anna Reimers heads to Berkeley by way of Highlands Ranch, Colo.
At the time of signing, Silvestre ranked Extra Inning Softball's No. 21 outfielder and No. 47 overall. Previous rankings on her resume include Extra Inning Softball's Top 5 outfielder for the Class of 2021 (2019), Extra Inning Softball's No. 33 overall in the Top 100 Class of 2021 (2019) and FloSoftball's No. 43 in the Top 100 Class of 2021 (2018).
Thank You To The Riveras
On Oct. 22, former Cal student-athletes Ron and Stephanie Rivera made a $500,000 gift to Cal's softball facility project. To honor the Riveras' gift, the renovated facility is intended to be named the "Rivera Family Cal Softball Field." Ron, current head coach for Washington in the NFL as a star linebacker at Cal from 1980-83, and Stephanie was a member of Cal's women's basketball team from 1983-85.
The Riveras' gift is part of the Cal Athletics' gender equity campaign that is raising funds for new facilities for both softball and beach volleyball.
The Riveras built a relationship with Chelsea Spencer while Spencer was playing professionally with the Rockford Thunder near Chicago. Ron and Stephanie asked Spencer to help run a softball camp that was attended by their daughter, Courtney, who ultimately went on to play at UCLA.
Home Sweet New Home
Cal will soon have a new stadium to call home under a plan announced in the summer of 2018 as part of the University and athletic department's commitment to support student-athletes in all of their educational activities.
Located on the current site of Levine-Fricke Field, once completed, the stadium will include expanded permanent seating, covered batting cages, locker rooms, a video board, restrooms, field lighting and an elevated press box, among other amenities. The facility will be configured to meet field dimension standards, and Cal will be able to host NCAA Tournament games, something the team is unable to do presently.