I was hoping this would not be my last Cal Softball post this year, but unfortunately there was no magical upset last weekend in Ann Arbor. In fact, Cal's season ended even earlier than expected when they were upset by Pittsburgh in Game 5 of the Regionals. Although Pitt would eventually lose to the heavily favored Michigan Wolverines, and chances are Cal would have had the same fate, it was still disappointing to not get to see Cal get a second shot at Michigan.
It was still a very good season that saw Cal romp in non-conference play and hang tough in the stacked Pac-12.
Let's recap the Ann Arbor Regionals!
FRIDAY: Cal 11, Pittsburgh 3 (5 innings)
Pittsburgh drew first blood with a two-run second inning, but Cal quickly responded with a 7 run bottom of the second and it was all Cal from there. Among the seven runs included a 3 run home run by Kobie Pettis and a two-run single by Cheyenne Cordes. Despite allowing three runs, Katie Sutherland-Finch had a great game only allowing five hits. Cal put it away with a 4 run 5th inning that put the Bears in a mercy rule situation. It was a promising start that gave the Golden Bear faithful hope in a big upset against Michigan, who would later go on to beat Oakland but didn't exactly look invincible in the win.
SATURDAY GAME 1: Michigan 9, Cal 1 (6 innings)
After a scoreless first inning, Danielle Henderson led off the second inning with a home run (putting her one shy of the Cal all-time record. Unfortunately, she would not tie it) and things looked hopeful. Unfortunately, Michigan tied it up right away with a two-out single by Tera Blanco. Michigan went up for good when Sierra Romero, espnW's Player of the Year, absolutely crushed one to center field and that was it. Michigan would put up three home runs in the fourth inning, and end the game in the sixth inning with a two-run double to mercy rule Cal.
Oakland took the lead on Pittsburgh in the loser's match, but ultimately Pittsburgh prevailed, setting up a rematch in the nightcap.
SATURDAY GAME 2: Pittsburgh 6, Cal 3
Pittsburgh took a one run lead after one inning and already Cal's backs were up against the wall. The Bears responded in the fourth inning with a Cheyenne Cordes home run, the last of her Cal career and ultimately took a 2-1 lead. The lead would last until the fifth inning, when Pittsburgh rallied to load the bases. Katie Sutherland-Finch did her best to get out of it, but it wouldn't be enough as Jenna Modec hit a grand slam to give Pittsburgh a commanding lead late, and Cal could not comeback. The Bears rallied in the seventh, scoring one run and even getting the tying run to the plate in Kobie Pettis, but she would ground out to end the game and Cal's season.
All in all, only two Regional hosts were knocked out... and they were the #15 and #16 seeds. Shows how hard the path to the WCWS is if you're not one of the top teams.
A LOOK BACK AT 2015
Cal still had a great season, especially when considering that last season the team took such a step back that even minimal gains would have been appreciated this season. Katie Sutherland-Finch and Stephanie Trzcinski stepped it up big time this year, and although they still have to stand in Jolene Henderson's shadow, continuing her footsteps is a huge task to handle. The offense suddenly looked like the Bears we were used to seeing when they were making regular postseason runs throughout the past three decades. It was clear when Pac-12 play began and the elite teams like Arizona, UCLA and Oregon both shut down the offense and sent our pitching back down to earth, that this wasn't going to be a return to WCWS form, but it was still awesome to see the team romp to a near undefeated start in non-conference play.
There were some thrilling walkoff wins against Stanford, thrilling series wins against Washington and Oregon State, a no-hitter against Santa Clara, and other amazing moments. I have faith that 2016 will bring more great moments.
LOOKING FORWARD TO 2016
The seniors: Britt Vonk, Cheyenne Cordes, Danielle Henderson, Mary Lee, and Breana Kostreaba are going to be tough shoes to fill up for next season. However we saw some great play from freshmen Kobie Pettis and Jazmyn Jackson, and will return two solid pitchers in Sutherland-Finch and Trzcinski. Hopefully they all improve even more in 2016 and we can continue to have a quality team that will crack the Top 25 and maybe stand a chance in the daunting Pac-12 (When next season starts I'll look at who the other schools are losing, I didn't want to worry about it now).
Thanks Cal Softball for a great year and when the hopefully improved football and basketball teams wrap up their comeback seasons, we will be right back in Levine-Fricke field for hopefully another postseason run.