At Oklahoma City, in the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Cal faced Alabama in a softball matchup on Sunday - on a day when Cal would have to win two consecutive games against the Crimson Tide in order to move on to tomorrow's championship series. Cal's 5-2 loss today closed out the need for a second game - and their season.
The difference in today's game is evident in the basic box score: Cal had two runs on two hits and one error, Alabama scored five runs on nine hits and no errors. Alabama's offense with nine hits was productive. Cal's with two hits was not.
As is often the case in softball, dominating pitchers win, and Cal ran into a tough one in 'Bama's Jackie Traina who limited the Bears to just two hits. She also hit a solo home run in the second - with two outs - to break open the scoring for Alabama.
But Cal has their own dominating pitcher in Jolene Henderson, a two-time Pac-12 pitcher of the year who sports a 38-3 record for the 2012 season, a record earned against arguably the toughest conference in the country.
Both teams have strong offenses; both teams hit with power. Today Alabama's power dominated.
Cal got one home run in the fourth from Henderson's younger sister (and third baseman) Danielle - when Ashley Decker was on second - to score Cal's only runs of the game. The younger Henderson, a freshman, mashed her home run mid-way up the bleacher seats in left field - to tie the game and revive Bear fans' hope.
In contrast, Alabama's offense wasn't "occasional." Starting in the second inning, they scored in five consecutive innings - based on three solo home runs. Even so the Bears were still close at 2-3 going in to the bottom of the 5th inning, but home runs by Kaila Hunt in the fifth and Jazlyn Lunceford in the sixth sealed the deal.
Cal's defense on the day was an unhappy combination of brilliant and sloppy.
Jamia Reid turned in a one-woman double-play in the bottom of the fourth when she charged hard to barely scoop a fly ball off the turf - and to then throw a strike to second base to double off a runner.
Cal catcher Victoria Jones turned in another beauty in the first inning with a throw to second base to pick-off a steal attempt by Alabama's lead-off hitter - and very fast runner - Kayla Braud. The ball arrived at second base in the perfect spot - maybe a foot off the ground and just to the first-base side of second base. It can't be done better.
But there's the other side of the coin, too.
In the third inning, a popup near first base dropped between 2nd base Jace Williams and 1st base Valerie Arioto. That kind of ball is normally the second baseman's to field, but we can't know what was said between them.
Again in the third, following a bunt attempt by (speedy) left fielder Kayla Braud, a throw by Jolene Henderson to first hit the runner, and the ball bounced into foul territory where Cal's right-fielder Decker was late to arrive where she could backup Henderson's throw - and the runner advanced.
Umpiring was also a mix of excellence and near incompetence, the latter at a level that does not belong in CWS games. On the positive side, replay cameras showed several instances where umpires made correct calls in difficult cases that were very close.
But behind the plate? The best that can be said was that the calls were seriously inconsistent. Balls were called strikes, strikes were called balls, and players and coaches on both teams were confused and angry. We can't say whether this had any real impact on the outcome of the game - but given Bama's offensive production it probably did not. That aside, both teams were victimized by bad calls.
A Pac-12 team won the CWS championship game in all of the last six years. 2012 ends that streak.
The Pac-12 (and its predecessor conferences) had a team in the CWS championship final game for 26 years; 2012 ends that streak as well. Still, it wasn't a bad year for the Pac. In the final eight, three came from the west - Cal, Oregon, and Arizona State.
The 'Bama team wore dark glasses today to limit sun-caused errors that had happened to them in previous games. The game today was played in the low 90s.
Cal came into the game seeded #1 in the country, Alabama was #2. The Tide will face the #4 Oklahoma Sooners in a best of three series starting Monday evening.
Cal's heavy hitter (and Pac-12 player of the year) Valerie Arioto, did not have a productive series if hits and runs are all that is counted. This was in part due to the ability of opponent's pitchers to limit the hit-able pitches that Arioto even saw. In direct consequence, she was on base a lot due to walks.
Left fielder Jamia Reed got a stolen base today. She's rather good at that - she was successful at that in 50 out of 54 attempts this year.
For all but one week this season, Cal was ranked #1 in the nation - and won the Pac-12 championship. Not a bad year.
Entering today's game, the teams had evenly matched records: Alabama 58-7, Cal 58-7.