Cal Eliminated from NCAA Softball Tournament

Bears beat Jackson State in their early game, but then errors proved costly in a loss Southern Illinois, ending Cal's season
Elon Butler
Elon Butler /

Cal was eliminated from the NCAA softball tournament on Saturday.

The Bears beat Jackson State 15-0 in a five-inning game in their first contest on Saturday, but later in the day Cal lost to Southern Illinois 3-2 for its second loss in the double-elimination Baton Rouge, La., NCAA Regional.

It was the second one-run loss to Southern Illinois (44-10) in two days. Walks ruined Cal in its 5-4 loss to the Salukis on Friday, and Cal's defense let the Bears down on Saturday.

Cal (37-19) committed a season-high four errors in Saturday's loss, and all three Southern Illinois runs were unearned., Three of Cal's errors were committed by third baseman Tatum Anzaldo, a senior and a three-time all-Pac-12 selection.

The losing pitcher was freshman Randi Roelling, even though she did not allow an earned run in her six innings. In fact, she did not give up any earned runs in her 12 innings of work on the weekend against Southern Illinois. But all she had to show for her effort was an 0-1 record in the Regional.

Cal jumped on top early on Saturday, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning against Southern Illinois. Four batters into the game, Cal had a 2-0 lead, as Acacia Anders knocked in the second run with a single. However, those were the only runs the Bears would score against SIU starter Madi Eberle and Maddia Groff, who came on in relief with one out in the fifth inning.

Southern Illinois scored its first run in the second inning after Anzaldo committed errors on consecutive plays, both on SIU bunts. Anna Carder then smacked an RBI single to reduce the Cal lead to 2-1.

Cal nearly got out of the fourth inning with the lead, but another Anzaldo error turned the game around. With two outs and a runner at first base, Southern Illinois' Elizabeth Warwick hit a routine grounder to Anzaldo, but Anzaldo's low throw to first skipped past first baseman Tianna Bell. So instead of recording the third out of the inning, the SIU runner (Carder) scored the tying run from first base.

The next hitter, Jackie Lis, smacked an RBI double to right, bringing home the go-ahead run to make it 3-2.

Cal got a one-out baserunner in the top of the seventh on Mika Lee's infield single, and she got all the way to third with two outs. But pinch-hitter Alexis Bishop flied out to deep right field to end the games.

Cal outhit SIU 5-3 on Saturday after outhitting the Salukis 8-5 on Friday, but it will be Southern Illinois that will advance to Sunday's regional champion against host and ninth-seeded LSU. Southern Illinois must beat LSU twice to win the Regional and advance to the Super Regional. LSU had sent Southern Illinois into the loser's bracket by beating the Salukis 4-1 in Saturday's first game in Baton Rouge.

Cal had stayed alive earlier Saturday by beating Jackson State in an elimination game.

Elon Butler hit a grand slam -- her 17th homer of the season -- and drove in five runs for Cal in its run-rule victory over Jackson State (33-19).  Because Cal led by at least eight runs after five innings, the game ended at that point by virtue of the so-called mercy rule.

The beneficiary of Cal’s offensive outburst was Bears pitcher Ryann Orange, who made just her sixth start of the season.  Orange, a sophomore, had pitched briefly in Friday’s loss to Southern Illinois, and she walked all three batters she faced in that 5-4 loss. Orange was much more effective on Saturday, pitching three shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out five.  She faced just 10 batters.

Cal scored nine runs in the first two innings Saturday, with all nine runs coming with two outs.  RBI doubles by Acacia Anders and Butler in the first inning provided Cal with a 2-0 lead, and Butler’s grand slam was the big hit in a seven-run second inning that broke the game open with a 9-0 lead.

A lot of Cal reserves played after that as Cal kept adding on.  Cal finished with 16 hits, and 12 Golden Bears players had at least one hit against Jackson State, the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament champion.  Cal pitcher Randi Roelling got her first at-bat of the season.

The Bears increased its lead to 15-0 in the fourth inning, and when the fifth inning ended with Cal leading by 15 runs, Cal was declared the winner by the eight-run rule. That was Jackson State's second loss in the four-team, double-elimination regional, knocking the Tigers out of the tournament.

A few hours later, Cal suffered its second loss of the Regional, ending the Bears season.

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Jake Curtis


Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.