June 4, 1997
Cal Reaches Regional Championship Game, Earns No. 11 Final Ranking
Making its 12th consecutive and 13th overall appearance to the NCAA Tournament this spring, Cal (36-26, 13-14) reached the championship game of a regional at Fresno State before losing to the host Bulldogs. The Golden Bears, who were seeded fourth in the region, fell to top-seeded Fresno State, 7-0, in the regional opener, but rebounded to beat No. 2 seed Cal State Northridge, 3-2 in 9 innings, and No. 3 seed Long Beach State, 3-1. However, Cal lost to Fresno State once again, this time by a 9-3 score. Still, the Bears, who were ranked 25th in the country entering the postseason, impressed the voters enough to move up to 11th in the final rankings released after the NCAA Tournament.
HEAD COACH DIANE NINEMIRE: Diane Ninemire, the winningest softball coach in Golden Bear history, finished in her 10th year as head coach at Cal with a school and career record of 408-225. The 1991 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, she has led Cal to 10 NCAA Tournament berths and a pair of College World Series appearances (1992, '96). Ninemire is assisted by John Reeves, who was in his fourth season.
YOST TAKES LEADERSHIP ROLE WITH FLOYD OUT: Cal suffered a potentially devastating blow early in the year when two-time All-American P Whitney Floyd injured a knee and was forced to miss the final three months of the season. However, sophomore P Holly Yost more than picked up her share of the load, setting several school pitching records and leading the team in hitting. As Cal's only other true pitcher besides Floyd, Yost threw in a Cal-record 56 games, breaking the mark of 48 set by Michele Granger in 1993. Yost ended the year with a 29-21 record, a 2.74 ERA, 11 shutouts and 186 strikeouts. She pitched complete games in both of Cal's victories in the NCAA Regional and was the Bears pitcher of record in Cal's final 27 contests. At the plate, Yost paced the team with a .327 average, up from .239 as a freshman. She hit three home runs on the year and also drove in 23 runs.
McCART SETS RECORDS FOR HOME RUNS, DOUBLES, RBI: Senior 1B Melanie McCart ended her career as the most prolific power hitter in school history, setting single season records for home runs and RBI and career marks for doubles, home runs and RBI. In 1997, she clearly had her best season at the plate, batting a career-high .315 with 15 doubles and school records in both homers (10) and RBI (54). For her career, she had 47 doubles, 28 homers and 153 RBI. In addition to her batting prowess, McCart also filled in at pitcher during her senior campaign, appearing in 21 games and compiling a 5-3 record with a 3.88 ERA. Her best game inside the circle came in March when she shut out eventual NCAA participant Michigan State, 4-0.
NINEMIRE WINS 400TH: Cal head coach Diane Ninemire won the 400th game of her career in the Bears 2-0 victory in game one over New Mexico State April 27. Through 10 seasons as head coach at Cal, Ninemire has a career record of 408-225. For active coaches with 10 years or less experience, Ninemire has more wins than any other head coach in NCAA Division I.
OUCH, THAT HURTS: Cal set one of its least popular team records this year as the Bears broke the school mark for most times hit by a pitch with 32. The old mark was 22 times hit in both 1978 and '89. Cal had its most painful weekend April 5-6 when Bear batters were hit 12 times by Oregon and Oregon State pitchers, including five times in one game against the Ducks. Individually, P Holly Yost led the way, being hit nine times. The sophomore has been hit 12 times in her career, giving her the school's career record. On the flip side, Cal pitchers also set a school record, plunking 22 opposing batters.
FOUR BEARS OUT WITH INJURIES: Cal played almost the entire season without four key members of the team who were out with injuries. The most significant was to senior P Whitney Floyd, a two-time All-American who played in only five games due to a knee injury. She was 2-2 with a 1.56 ERA before being sidelined in early February. In addition, junior UT Valerie Nicklas saw action in just eight games after suffering a pair of concussions, while sophomore 3B Carlyn Rojas (shoulder surgery) and freshman SS Paige Bowie (hand surgery) missed the entire season. All four are expected to apply for medical hardships waivers to gain an addition year of eligibility.
BEARS HONORED IN POSTSEASON: Several Cal players were honored for their performances during the year with both Pac-10 and regional honors. 1B Melanie McCart earned first team All-Pac-10 accolades, while P Holly Yost and DP Jenny Ackley were voted to the second team. Ackley was also named to the All-Pacific Region second team. In addition, Yost, C Megumi Takasaki and 3B Jessica Parker were selected to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team.
BEAR NOTES: 3B Jessica Parker set a school record with 16 doubles on the year ... freshman 2B Lisa Iancin was the third-toughest player in the Pac-10 to strike out with only seven strikeouts in 179 at-bats ... as a team, Cal stole 48 bases (64 attempts) in '97, its highest total since stealing 49 bases in 1993 ... prior to its May 4 doubleheader with Washington, Cal honored three of its former softball players who participated in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta: P Michele Granger, C Gillian Boxx and P Lisa Martinez. Both Granger and Boxx helped the United States to the gold medal, while Martinez was a member of the Puerto Rican squad ... Cal, which finished fourth in the conference, was one of five Pac-10 teams to earn NCAA Tournament bids, joining Arizona, UCLA, Washington and Arizona State ... Cal returns six starters and 14 of 18 players for the 1998 season.