Cal Opens Pac-12 Play At Oregon State
BERKELEY - Winners of six of its last seven, the California softball team has one final tune-up before starting Pac-12 play this week. The Golden Bears (10-4) head to Stockton to face Pacific on Wednesday, March 17, at 2 p.m. before flying north for the Pac-12 opening series at Oregon State. Cal plays the Beavers on Friday, March 19, at 5 p.m., a doubleheader on Saturday, March 20, at 1 and 3 p.m. and the series finale on Sunday, March 21, at 11:00 a.m.
Cal won four of its five games last week, including two five-inning mercy rule victories and two come-from-behind wins. The Bears dominated Santa Clara, 21-4, the most runs scored since posting 22 on Stanford in 1993, and they topped UC Davis, 8-0. Cal also enjoyed a 3-2 comeback win over the Aggies and a 7-5 comeback win over host Fresno State, highlighted by Aleia Agbayani's grand slam in the sixth inning to complete the comeback, her first career HR.
Lauren Espalin led the Bears at the plate last week, batting .500 (7-for-14) with three two-hit performances. She provided all the offense in Cal's 3-2 win against UC Davis on March 14, collecting two RBI doubles, including a two-bagger in the top of the seventh to clinch the win. In the matchup against the Aggies the day before, Espalin recorded her first career multi-home run performance with two round trippers. She also recorded two hits and scored twice in Cal's win at Santa Clara. Her season batting average of .448 ranks seventh in the Pac-12.
Solid in the circle throughout non-conference play, Chloe Romero's 0.27 ERA currently leads the Pac-12, stands 10th in the nation, and her 6-0 record leads the team. Romero earned the win in all three of Cal's victories at the Bulldog Classic last weekend. In Cal's 8-0 five-inning win against UC Davis, Romero pitched a complete-game shutout, tying her career best with seven strikeouts. Her other two wins last weekend came in relief appearances, including three innings of work in Cal's 7-5 win at Fresno State. The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but Romero got the Bears out of the jam with their two-run lead in-tact. Romero only allowed one run over the course of the weekend and it was unearned.
Entering last week with one stolen base, Cal was 8-for-8 last week. Amani Bradley accounted for half of the swiped bags, while Kennedy Thomas and Sabrina Nunez each recorded two.
Not only a speedster on the base paths, Nunez was solid at the plate, as well, tying Espalin for the most hits on the team last week with seven. She notched her first career three-hit game in the weekend finale against Fresno State. She also posted her first career triple in Cal's 8-0 win over UC Davis. Nunez is batting .500 on the year (9-for-18).
In addition to her .429 batting average last week, Kacey Zobac notched her first career triple in Cal's 3-2 win over UC Davis on March 14, earning an RBI with it. She also doubled and scored in Cal's 21-4 route over Santa Clara.
Mikayla Coelho has reached base in 11 consecutive games. She slapped a two-run single during Cal's six-run sixth inning in the win over Fresno State.
After being away from home the last two weeks, the Bears return to Berkeley for the Pac-12 home-opening series against UCLA from March 26-28 at Levine-Fricke Field. Due to local health guidelines, fans are not allowed to attend home events this season.
Cal In Pac-12 Openers
Cal last played a Pac-12 conference game in 2019 since the 2020 season ended days before the scheduled conference opener. Cal lost two out of three in the Pac-12 opening series at Utah in 2019, winning the series finale, 8-7 in eight innings. Cal visited Oregon State in the 2018 opening series, taking one of the three games. The last time Cal won its first conference series was 2014, taking two out of three at No. 21 Stanford. The Bears played Stanford twice earlier this season in non-conference meetings.
Cal All-Time Against Pacific and Oregon State
Cal is 55-39-1 all-time against Pacific, including a 5-1 win in the last meeting in 2019. Michele Granger pitched two no-hitters against the Tigers during her collegiate career. Pacific hosts Cal having won three of its last four, all on the road.
The Bears are 87-42 all-time against Oregon State. Cal dropped two out of three in each of the last two series vs. OSU. The Beavers have won three of their last four.
Smith Named To The USA Softball Collegiate Player Of The Year Top 50 Watch List
Makena Smith was tabbed to the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List. Smith has notched three-hit games on three occasions thus far in 2021, including a 3-for-4 day in the home opener on Feb. 21 against Saint Mary's with a home run and an RBI double. Smith batted .625 two weekends ago (5-for-8) with four runs scored, four walks and three RBI. Smith also belted her second home run of the season during the Bears' comeback victory over UCSB on March 5. She's the only Bear to start every game this season. She leads her team with five multi-hit games in 2021, as well as a team-best four multi-RBI performances.
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 top 25 finalists for the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced on April 21.
Through the non-conference portion of the 2021 schedule, Cal came up with some clutch grand slams to win ballgames in the late innings. Most recently, the Bears erased a 4-1 deficit at Fresno State last Sunday, capped by a grand slam by Aleia Agbayani to make it 7-4. In the 7-5 win over UC Santa Barbara on March 5, the Bears fell behind early, 3-0, and clawed their way back with Kacey Zobac's grand slam the deciding factor in the victory. The day before against BYU, despite eventually losing, 8-7, in eight innings, Cal erased two BYU leads, tying the game in the seventh with Karlee Sparacino's three-run home run. Sparacino got in on the grand slam fun herself with a grand slam on Feb. 26 in the Bears' 7-4 win over California Baptist. In Cal's home opener against Saint Mary's on Feb. 21, Candace Yingling tied the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh. Sparacino laced a walk-off single later in the inning.