Cal Hosts No. 2 UCLA In Pac-12 Home Opener
BERKELEY - After being away from home the last two weeks, California returns to Berkeley for its Pac-12 home opener. The Golden Bears (12-7, 1-2) host defending national champion and second-ranked UCLA from March 26-28 at Levine-Fricke Field. The series begins on Friday, March 26, at 2 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on March 27 at noon and 2:30 p.m. and the series finale on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Due to local health guidelines, fans are not allowed to attend home events.
UCLA will be Cal's first ranked opponent this season. Last year, the Bears played two ranked teams in the 2020 shortened season, losing to No. 18 Missouri, 11-7, and No. 4 LSU, 5-1.
Opening Pac-12 play at Oregon State last weekend, the Bears won one game in the four-game series. Cal took the first game in last Saturday's doubleheader, 2-0. The win marked Cal's fourth shutout win of 2021. Sona Halajian accounted for all the runs in the game when she belted her second home run of the season to left. That was all Haylei Archer needed in the circle, picking up the complete-game victory.
Halajian did some damage in the second game of last Saturday's doubleheader, singling with the bases loaded to collect her third RBI in the two games combined.
Tatum Anzaldo slugged her second home run of the season in Cal's comeback attempt in Sunday's series finale against the Beavers. Anzaldo's two-run round tripper cut the OSU lead down to 4-3, which wound up being the final score.
In the final tune-up before conference play on March 17, Cal shut out Pacific, 2-0, in Stockton. Archer picked up her fourth win of the season, going six and a third, allowing five hits and a walk with two strikeouts. After Lauren Espalin crossed home plate on a fielder's choice in the first inning, Karlee Sparacino homered in the second to account for all the scoring. It was her team-best third HR of the season.
Lauren Espalin leads the Bears with six multi-hit games. Her season batting average of .387 (17-for-45) ranks second on the team. She paced her team with four hits last week, including her team-best fourth double of the year.
Alexis Bishop and Sabrina Nunez also doubled last week. Both of Bishop's hits this season have been doubles, giving her a team-leading .667 slugging percentage.
Makena Smith is the only Bear who has started all 19 games this season. Her .375 batting average ranks third among the Bears.
Cameron Kondo hit a team-best .429 last week, going 3-for-7, all singles. She also stole her first base of the season.
Chloe Romero leads the Cal pitchers with a 1.62 ERA. Her six wins also leads the Bears.
Cal hits the road again next weekend, traveling to the Pacific Northwest to face No. 4 Washington from April 1-3.
Cal In Pac-12 Home Openers
The last time the Bears won their Pac-12 home opener was in 2017 with a three-game sweep over Stanford. Cal played UCLA in its 2016 conference home opener with the Bruins winning the first game of the three-game series. The second game ended in a 3-3 tie and the series finale wasn't played due to rainy weather both days. The last time Cal beat UCLA was a 5-1 win in 10 innings at UCLA in 2013.
Haylei Archer played a pivotal role in both of Cal's wins last week. In the Bears' 2-0 win at Pacific on March 17, she earned the win going six and a third, allowing five hits and one walk with two strikeouts. She earned her fifth win of the season in Cal's 2-0 win at Oregon State last Saturday. Against the Beavers, she went the distance, allowing just three hits and two walks, and she struck out a season-best seven batters. Cal's true freshman pitcher also garnered a complete game in the series finale against OSU. In three starts last week, she compiled a 1.45 ERA with 10 strikeouts. On the year, she boasts a season ERA of 2.82, a 5-1 record and a team-leading 31 strikeouts.
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 smacked her second home run of the season during the Bears' comeback victory over UC Santa Barbara on March 5. She's the only Bear to start every game this season. She's second on the team with five multi-hit games in 2021, and 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.
Thus far in 2021, Cal has come up with some clutch home runs to win ballgames through the non-conference portion of the schedule and at Oregon State last weekend. Most recently, Sona Halajian's two-run round tripper was all the scoring in Cal's 2-0 win against the Beavers last Saturday. The Bears erased a 4-1 deficit at Fresno State on March 14, 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. Karlee Sparacino belted a grand slam on Feb. 26 in the Bears' 7-4 win over California Baptist. Sparacino also hit her third homer of the season in Cal's 2-0 win at Pacific on March 17. 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 later laced a walk-off single.