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Cal Faces Saint Mary's, Hosts Utah

Apr 5, 2021
Lauren Espalin's Batting Average Leads The Bears

BERKELEY - After garnering a walk-off win against Saint Mary's in the 2021 home opener, the California softball team will meet the Gaels in a rematch this week in Moraga before returning to Berkeley to host Utah in the Golden Bears' Pac-12 home opener this weekend.        

The Bears (12-11, 1-5) face the Gaels on Tuesday, April 6, at 2 p.m. from Cottrell Field on the SMC campus before facing the Utes from April 9-11 at Levine-Fricke Field. The series begins on Friday at 3 p.m. before a doubleheader on Saturday starting at noon and the series concludes on Sunday at noon. The series will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

Friday's matchup against Utah will mark Cal's first Pac-12 Conference home game played at Levine-Fricke Field in nearly two years since the final home game of 2019 against Arizona on April 28, 2019.

Last weekend, No. 6 Washington swept Cal in the four-game series played at Husky Softball Stadium in Seattle. The Bears battled the highly-ranked Huskies tough in three of the four contests. In last Sunday's series finale, trailing, 2-0, in the top of the sixth, Makena Smith ripped an RBI single to cut the deficit to one. However, UW got the insurance run back plus more with three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the 5-1 victory.  

Mikayla Coelho batted .500 at Washington, going 6-for-12 in the series. Three of her hits were doubles, and also a solo home run. Coelho also collected three RBI and scored twice. Prior to the trip to the Pacific Northwest, Coelho was batting .227 with 10 hits on the year. On the season, Coelho is now batting .286 with a .429 slugging percentage. 

Lauren Espalin leads the Bears with eight multi-hit games. Her season batting average of .386 (22-for-57) paces her squad. She went 5-for-12 in Seattle last weekend with a pair of two-hit games against the Huskies. 

Makena Smith is the only Bear who has started all 23 games this season. Her .368 batting average ranks second among the Bears with at least 15 at-bats on the season. 

Another Bear who made solid contact in the batter's box last weekend was true freshman Alexis Bishop. After only starting one game prior to last weekend, Bishop started three of the four contests against Washington. Her. 429 batting average in the series was second on the team, as well, and she also walked twice. On the season, Bishop is batting .385 (5-for-13) in 10 games played. Her .538 slugging percentage is second on the team and her 1.094 OPS leads the Bears.

Chloe Romero leads the Cal pitchers with a 2.13 ERA that currently ranks eighth in the Pac-12 rankings. She boasts a 1.08 ERA against non-conference opponents (nine appearances, four starts). Her six wins also leads the Bears. Romero appeared in all four games last weekend in relief of starters Haylei Archer and Sona Halajian.

After battling the Cardinal in two non-conference games earlier this season, Cal returns to The Farm to face Stanford this time in a Pac-12 Conference series from April 16-18 from Smith Family Stadium. The series will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks. 

Cal All-Time Against Saint Mary's And Utah
Cal is 30-17 all-time against Utah. Cal most-recently defeated the Utes, 8-7, in eight innings back on March 17, 2019, in Salt Lake City. The last time the Bears won a series over Utah was in 2018 when Cal swept Utah in Berkeley.    

The Bears have dominated the all-time series against Saint Mary's with a current record of 65-2 after the win in the home opener on Feb. 21. In addition, Cal defeated the Gaels in all three meetings in 2020, twice in Fresno and a 5-4 victory in Moraga. 

Walk-Off Win Over The Gaels In First Meeting This Year
Cal earned its 65th all-time win over Saint Mary's in dramatic fashion in the 2021 home opener on Feb. 21. Down to its last out and trailing, 4-2, Candace Yingling belted a two-run home run and Karlee Sparacino later knocked in the game-winning run to lift the Bears over Saint Mary's, 5-4. Makena Smith got the day started on the right foot with her first home run of the season to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead. Smith finished the day 3-for-4 with a double, two RBI and two runs scored. Smith sprayed a double to the corner in right that brought Sabrina Nunez home to cut the Saint Mary's lead down to 4-2 before Cal culminated the walk-off win in the seventh.

Homers Help
In addition to Candace Yingling's home run against Saint Mary's, Cal has come up with other clutch home runs to win ballgames. Most recently, Sona Halajian's two-run round tripper was all the scoring in Cal's 2-0 win against the Beavers on March 20. 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. 

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 six 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.