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Golden Nuggets: Despite WCWS Elimination, the Future is Bright for Cal Softball

Despite softball's elimination from the WCWS, Mike Silver is not especially distraught.  By adding an impressive recruiting class and losing none of the current players, the Bears should return as an even better team next season.  Sure, he wrote this article before Florida officially eliminated the Bears from the tourney, but the optimism is still there.

For those of us who'd waited six long years for Cal's return to the WCWS after a run of seven consecutive trips that included a national title in 2002 and three consecutive championship-game appearances, it was a punch to the gut.

But here's the weird thing: The defeat stopped stinging about five minutes after it had ended. There are many reasons for that. First and foremost, this team wasn't supposed to be here. The Bears lost national player of the year candidate Val Arioto to a broken leg on the first day of practice, depriving them of their best overall hitter, only consistent power threat and co-No. 1 pitcher.

Cal rose up and rode the remarkable efforts of Henderson (39-9, 0.87 ERA, 322 strikeouts in 320 1/3 innings, .184 opponents' batting average), who joined the great Kristina Thorson as the only Bears to be named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, to a 15-6, second-place finish in the nation's toughest conference.

Then came the postseason, which is always a treacherous road for Hall of Fame coach Diane Ninemire's team.

Because of embarrassingly substandard facilities, Ninemire, who has won 1,058 games (against 508 defeats) in her brilliant career, is annually forced to push her team to remarkable heights in opposing stadiums. Virtually every year, no matter how dire the circumstances might seem, the Bears seem to find a way.

If the Bears fall short, it won't be a tragedy. Next year, Cal loses no one, gets Arioto back as a redshirt senior and has a standout recruiting class coming in (including Henderson's younger sister,Danielle) that will provide punch to a lineup sorely needing it. It's very reasonable to envision the Bears coming back to Oklahoma City in each of the next two seasons, until Jolene the Machine's career is finally over.

After the jump softball, baseball, rugby, and men's crew all compete in postseason action!