Down to the wire

Cal’s softball team had eight wins over nationally ranked teams during the regular season, but none was bigger than Saturday’s 4-2 victory over No. 20 Oregon at Levine-Fricke Field. The Bears entered the weekend in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985, and they were crushed in back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday. Even though Cal had one of toughest schedules in the country, it was only 32-30 heading into Saturday. A 32-31 record and losses in their final four games may have made it hard for the NCAA selection committee to grant the Bears a bid. But not only did Cal stop the bleeding, it did so against another top 25 team.

Now, Cal will enter the NCAA Tournament in an unfamiliar role — as longshots to make a deep run. Most Cal teams are expected to be serious contenders for the Women’s College World Series. This year’s team, with only one senior and an inexperienced pitching staff, will be tournament underdogs,

Cal gets it going Friday against Florida State at the University of Alabama. It’s a four-team, double-elimination regional, with the winner moving on to the Super Regionals. Alabama and Tennesee Tech are the other teams in the regional.


On the move

Now and then, I will be providing nuggets on other sports at Cal besides football. Something I’ve been meaning to mention is the story of Kevin Boyd, the women’s soccer coach who left Cal and wound up Arizona State. It was interesting because in the press release put out by Cal, it stated that Boyd left the program to focus on his family because he was becoming a father. A week later, he is the new coach at Arizona State.

The first instinct was to think there was something fishy going on. But I talked to Kevin for a story I wrote and I believe he sincerely left Cal for the right reasons. His girlfriend won’t be working once they have the child and, as we all know, the cost of living in the Bay Area isn’t exactly a bargain. Plus, I think a lot of it came down to that he and his girlfriend are both from Idaho and just have never felt comfortable in the Bay Area. Granted, Phoenix isn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere, but there are more wide open spaces nearby.

I’ve talked to Kevin several times over the years for stories and I always found him to be an honest, stand-up guy. It will be interesting on Oct. 26, when Cal visits the Sun Devils.

Not only did new coach Neil McGuire inherent a program firmly entrenched among the nation’s elite, 2007 has the potential to be an especially successful season at Cal. The Bears have several key players back from last year’s team that went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and have a star-studded recruiting class coming in.


Berkeley: Center of the football universe

Talk about excitement. There’s always the usual frenzy when the college football season begins. Now imagine being in the center of the college football universe when the season kicks off.

That’s what it will be like in Berkeley on Sept. 1. ABC has chosen to make the Tennessee-Cal game its first installment of “Saturday Night Football” this season. That basically makes it the most important game to start the season.

It actually is an obvious choice for ABC. You’ve got two teams that will be in the preseason top 25 with the storyline of last year’s game to build off. Plus, as we all know, a lot of the top programs have a way of easing into the season by scheduling some cupcakes early on.

There should be a lot of hype surrounding Cal this season. And it looks like it won’t waste any time getting started.

Not surprisingly, ABC also chose the USC-Cal game on Nov. 10 for its Saturday night series. The Bears could be on additional Saturday nights if ABC chooses them for a number of slots the network leaves open in order to find the most desirable games.

For those scoring at home, we now know the particulars of three of Cal’s games. The two games on ABC will start at 5 p.m. The game at Colorado State on Sept. 8 will be on College Sports TV and air at 11 a.m.