The Bears have accomplished some amazing things this season. An outright conference title. A #1 ranking almost the entire year. A World Series appearance, which should never be taken for granted, despite how spoiled the Bears have made us over the years.
But when you get to Oklahoma City there are no easy wins, and you have to play your best every inning. The #1 overall seed hasn't won the title since 2007, which tells you that each year there are multiple teams with the talent to win it all. Cal didn't bring their best, and that means the season ends sooner than everybody expected.
Everything that had made Cal so special this year was absent today. Their defense has been elite all season long, but multiple uncharacteristic mistakes helped Alabama score two of their runs. Jolene Henderson rarely allowed home runs this season but allowed three against the Crimson Tide. And Cal's offense has been dynamic, but they managed only two hits against Jackie Traina.
Does that make this season a failure? If you asked the team it wouldn't surprise me if they said yes - those athletes acted like they expected to win it all throughout the entire season, even when they faced multiple elimination games during the post-season. But if we're grading making NCAA semi-finals as failures then we've created some seriously sky-high expectations.
Most of the players on this team will be back next year looking to make up for this year's missed opportunity. But for Valerie Arioto, Frani Echavarria, Jace Williams, Jamia Reid and Elia Reid, this was their swan song. You've got one National POY finalist, two All-Americans, four key starters and a whole mess of talent wrapped up in those five names. It's a shame that they all had to finish their careers with a loss, and they won't be easily replaced.
We'll look back on this incredible year later this week. For now, all we can do is appreciate the season-long efforts of these Bears. Can't wait til next year.