The top-seeded Cal softball team didn’t flinch after losing Saturday to Arkansas.
Instead, the Bears (54-5) won three in a row — including by scores of 10-2 and 7-0 over the Razorbacks on Sunday — to captured the NCAA Berkeley regional.
On the brink of having their spectacular season ended two weekends early, the Bears now await a Super Regional assignment at Levine-Fricke Field against Pac-12 rival Washington.
ESPN, which will televise the Super Regional round next weekend, will announce the dates of the Cal-UW series on Monday. The teams will either play Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday.
Here’s my full game story.
— BASEBALL: The Bears (27-24, 10-17 Pac-12) closed out their home schedule with a 6-5 win over No. 11 UCLA (38-14, 17-10) at Evans Diamond, scoring four times in the eighth inning to rally from a 4-2 deficit. Chadd Krist singled and homered and drove in a pair of runs for Cal, which ends the season next week with a three-game series at Stanford.
The Cal men’s golf team will compete in the NCAA championships for the third straight year after winning the Stanford regional by six strokes on Saturday.
The Bears have won six of 13 events they entered this season, but this was their first regional championship.
Cal will be among 30 teams participating in the May 30 through June 3 collegiate nationals at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
The Bears had three top-10 individual finishers at the regionals, led by Brandon Hagy, who finished third with an 11-under-par score of 199. Michael Kim tied for fourth one stroke back and Max Homa tied for 10th with a four-under 206.
San Diego State, Alabama-Birmingham, Stanford and Central Florida nabbed the next four places in the team race and also qualified for the NCAA championships.
— BASEBALL: No. 11 UCLA (38-13, 17-9 Pac-12) scored an 8-5 victory over the Bears (26-24, 9-17), giving the Bruins wins in the first two games of the series at Evans Diamond. The teams play again Sunday at 1 p.m. Cal’s Chad Bunting went 3 for 4 with a double and an RBI and Danny Oh was 2 for 3 with two RBI.
Arkansas, which finished 7-21 in the Southeastern Conference and endured a 10-game losing streak at one point this season, knocked off top-seeded Cal 3-2 on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Berkeley regional.
The Bears (51-5) must now win three straight games to survive the regional and advance to the Super Regional round a week from now.
Boston U (41-15) outlasted Iona 4-3 in 13 innings to survive in the losers-bracket and set up an elimination game with Cal. Originally scheduled for 7 p.m., the game is expected to begin between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
The winner moves on to Sunday’s championship series, beginning at 5 p.m.
Cal would need to beat the Razorbacks (29-26) twice to claim the regional title and advance.
One more defeat and the Bears’ spectacular season is over.
Arkansas scored three times in the first inning, knocking starter Valerie Arioto out of the game, and the Bears never recovered. Arioto retired just one batter and allowed two runs before Jolene Henderson came on, surrendering the third run.
Jamie Reid stole home to get Cal on the books in the third inning, then Britt Vonk scored on an error in the fifth. But the Bears managed just five hits for the game, and freshman Breana Kostreba fouled out with two runners on in the seventh to end the game.
The top-ranked, top-seeded Cal softball team (50-4) takes its first step toward a return trip to the College World Series when it plays host to Iona (35-24) on Friday at 7 p.m.
Boston U (40-12) and Arkansas (27-26) duel in the 5 p.m. game at Levine-Fricke Field.
The double-elimination event runs through Sunday. If Cal wins, it will host the Super Regionals for a best-of-three series with a bid to the CWS on the line.
Cal vs. Iona figures to be a mismatch. The Bears outhit the Gaels .320 to .267, outscore them .680 runs per game to 3.32 and outslug them 1.35 home runs per game to 0.44.
The Bears boast the nation’s No. 1 RPI. Iona is No. 163, according to the computer.
If the Gaels have a chance it’s with their pitching. They boast a 1.35 team earned run average, sixth-best in the country. Cal is third at 1.27.
Senior Alyssa Maiese is 17-10 with a 1.25 ERA and was the MAAC co-Player of the Year. Senior Sarah Jackson is 17-12 with a 1.26 ERA and was conference Pitcher of the Year. But the Gaels have been shut out 10 times this season.
Iona’s second-year coach, Roni Rivera, is a 2003 graduate of Santa Clara.
My pick: Cal 8, Iona 0.
— All-Pacific Regional team: Cal placed four players — first baseman/pitcher Valerie Arioto, third baseman Danielle Henderson, pitcher Jolene Henderson and left fielder Jamia Reid — on the All-Pacific Region first team, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced.
The top-ranked Cal women’s softball team swept the major Pac-12 Conference awards, with senior Valerie Arioto winning Player of the Year, junior Jolene Henderson earning Pitcher of the Year and Diane Ninemire named Coach of the Year.
Jolene and Danielle Henderson have World Series ambitions
A three-time all-conference pick, Arioto (Foothill High-Pleasanton) is the first Cal player named Pac-12 Player of the Year. She leads the Pac-12 with a 1.22 earned run average, 22 home runs, a 1.000 slugging percentage and .626 on-base percentage.
In Cal’s title-clinching wins over Arizona State last weekend, Arioto hit a walk-off game-winning home run in the seventh inning of the first game, then pitched a shutout the next day.
Arioto on winning the award (courtesy of Cal athletics): “This is a great accomplishment to end my senior year in Pac-12 play! The success of my team has played a huge role in helping me get this award!”
Henderson is 30-2 with a 1.22 ERA and a repeat winner of the Pitcher of the Year award. She and Arioto are both finalists for USA Collegiate Softball Player of the Year honors.
Henderson on winning the award: “This is really cool and shows how hard my team has worked this year. We’d never win a game if there weren’t 20 of us working hard at practice and in our games with our coaches’ support. My teammates have been amazing all year – defensively stellar and off the hook when it came to their bats.”
The Cal women’s rowing team swept the varsity eight, second varsity eight, varsity four and novice eight races to capture their fifth straight Pac-12 Conference championship.
Cal’s men finished second behind two-time champ Washington.
— TRACK AND FIELD: Junior Derek White finished second in the discus at the Pac-12 championships in Eugene, Ore. He threw 187 feet, 6 inches, a personal best by seven feet. Teammate Angelica Weaver finished second in the 400 hurdles with a personal-best time of 57.85 seconds that equals the No. 2 mark in school history.
— BASEBALL: No. 10 Arizona (33-15, 16-8 Pac-12) completed a sweep of the Golden Bears (25-22, 9-15) with a 7-4 win at Berkeley. Freshman Brenden Farney had a two-run double for the Bears.
Cal sophomore Collin Jarvis won the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Pac-12 track and field championships at Eugene, Ore. Jarvis ran a personal-best time of 8 minutes, 48.05 seconds.
Sophomore Hammed Suleman, formerly of Deer Valley HS, placed second in the long jump with a wind-aided mark of 25 feet, 5 1/2 inches. Teammates Jonte Grant and Chase Wheeler were fifth and sixth, respectively, at 25-0 3/4 and 25-0 1/2. Grant’s performance was a nine-inch personal best.
Linda Oseso placed sixth in the women’s hammer throw with a personal best toss of 193-11.
The meet concludes Sunday.
— BASEBALL: The Bears (25-21, 9-14 Pac-12) lost 4-1 to No. 10 Arizona (32-15, 15-8), despite Tony Renda’s fifth home run of the season.
The day after clinching their first Pac-12 Conference outright title since 1987, the No. 1 Cal women’s softball team (50-4, 21-3) lost 5-0 to No. 2 Arizona State (46-7, 18-4) in the regular-season finale at Levine-Fricke Field.
Cal junior pitcher Jolene Henderson lost for just the second time against 30 victories.
The Bears managed just five hits.
The top-ranked Cal women’s softball team rode a six-hit pitching performance by Valerie Arioto to a 5-0 win over No. 2 Arizona State, clinching its first outright Pac-12 championship since 1987. Cal shared the conference title in 2005.
The Golden Bears (50-3, 21-2) also almost assuredly wrapped up the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Cal has been ranked No. 1 in both polls for seven consecutive weeks, and now owns back-to-back victories over the Sun Devils (45-7, 17-4).
The teams meet a third time on Saturday at noon at Levine-Fricke Field, but the league championship race has been settled.
Arioto (Foothill High), whose walk-off, 2-run homer in the seventh inning provided the Bears a 4-2 win on Thursday, struck out 11 and walked one while improving to 20-2.
Cal scored single runs in the second and fourth innings on RBI singles by freshman Danielle Henderson. The Bears added three runs in the fifth on a 2-run single by Elia Reid and a sacrifice fly by Danielle Henderson, who had a three-RBI day.