OKLAHOMA CITY -- One of the greatest seasons in Cal softball history came to an unsatisfying end Sunday, as the top-ranked Golden Bears lost 5-2 to Alabama in the College World Series semifinals.
The Golden Bears (58-7) were the nation's top-ranked team for much of the season, set a school record for victories and entered the NCAA tournament as the top seed. Cal beat LSU in its CWS opener, then lost to Oklahoma before beating Oregon on Saturday to keep its hopes of playing for the national championship alive. But Alabama ended the Bears' bid to match the 2002 team, the only Cal squad to win the championship.
"Being No. 1 means a lot, but it means people are gunning for you," senior left fielder Jamia Reid said. "We knew coming here it was going to be a tough World Series.
" ... I mean, it wasn't going to be easy."
Coach Diane Ninemire said, "I'm very proud of the University of California softball program. "This was a tremendous season. ... I know we're disappointed right now. Alabama has a great team."
Alabama advances to face Oklahoma, which is led by national player of the year and Archbishop Mitty-San Jose grad Keilani Ricketts, in a best-of-three championship series, beginning Monday.
Alabama scored single runs in the second and third innings, the first on a home run by winning pitcher Jackie Traina, before Cal freshman third baseman Danielle Henderson connected on a two-run homer to tie the game in the
In the top of the sixth, Alabama was sitting on a 4-2 lead when it seemed momentum might swing to the Bears. Ashley Decker reached base on a strikeout-wild pitch, and Henderson walked to give Cal two base runners with no outs. After a strikeout, Henderson was picked off first base for the second out of the inning.
"I got my lead and then I was trying to get back," said Henderson. "I pushed, and the dirt just fell away from me. I couldn't get back."
Another strikeout, one of six by Traina, ended the inning and the final Cal threat of the game.
Cal loses five seniors, including four starters. Player of the year finalist Valerie Arioto, one of the seniors, was walked seven times in the Bears' four games, more than any other player in the tournament, but went 0 for 7 with three strikeouts when teams pitched to her.
The other seniors are second-team All-America outfielder Jamia Reed, her sister Elia Reed, second baseman Jace Williams and center fielder Frani Echavarria.
"We're losing five seniors who are tremendous players, tremendous people and great leaders," Ninemire said. "They have really left their mark on this program, but we've got a great group returning and we have some outstanding recruits coming in."