Top-seeded Cal (56-5) will face LSU (38-23) on Thursday at the College World Series in Oklahoma City in the opening round of the College World Series.
The Bears routed LSU 14-3 back on Feb. 19 in Las Vegas, getting home runs from Jace Williams, Breana Kostreba, Jolene Henderson and Frani Echavarria in a five-inning game.
The Bears secured the Berkeley super regional title and advanced to their 12th CWS berth with a 2-0 win over Washington on Sunday afternoon at Levine-Fricke Field.
The NCAA apparently does not award an MVP award at this event, but clearly no Cal player contributed more to the success of the past two weekends than junior pitcher Jolene Henderson.
She pitched a pair of shutouts at Washington in the super regional and enters the CWS with a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings. Her ERA for the postseason: 0.48. In other words, a half-run every seven-inning game.
The CWS includes three entries each from the Pac-12 (Cal, Arizona State, Oregon) and the Southeastern Conference (Alabama, LSU, Tennessee). Oklahoma and South Florida complete the eight-team field.
LSU has survived two weekends on the road to reach the season’s final step. The Tigers won the College Station regional hosted by No. 8 seed Texas A&M, then took two of three from No. 9 seed Missouri at the Columbia, Mo., super regional this weekend.
The SEC is widely regarded as the nation’s second-best softball conference — behind the Pac-12 — but has never won an NCAA title in the sport. The Tigers were second behind Alabama — the NCAA tournament’s No. 2 seed — in the SEC Western Division at 15-13.
Rachele Fico pitched a 2-hitter Sunday in LSU’s 3-1 clinching win over Missouri. She has a season record of 20-11 with an 0.92 ERA.
LSU is 5-1 in the postseason so far, having allowed just three runs in its five wins.
The Tigers rely on their pitching staff, which boasts a team ERA of 1.51. But they are a weak hitting team, with a batting average of just .221 and 13 home runs in 62 games. By contrast, Cal is hitting .318 with 81 home runs in 61 games.