It’s a great night for baseball, as the newly reinstated California Bears try to continue their stellar play and further justify why they were fully worth the stunning time, effort and money put forth by those who worked and donated towards the savecalbaseball.com effort.
The Bears were given just about the cushiest schedule possible to start the Pac-10 – 6 straight home games against two teams outside of every top 25 ranking system (a rarity for a Pac-10 team these days). And like a good team should, Cal took advantage by going 5-1 against Washington St. and USC. But the schedule has now stiffened, starting with tonight’s game in Tucson against #22 Arizona.
Arizona has beaten up on non Pac-10 teams to the tune of a 17-5 record, but they have stumbled lately against tougher conference competition. They enter tonight’s game with a 2-4 record in official conference games, plus a loss earlier this week to Arizona St. that is technically considered a non-conference game. Joey Rikard, hitting .437 on the season, has managed just a .217 batting average against Pac-10 foes. Kyle Simon and Tyler Hale, two of their three starters main starters, have been battered for a combined 0-4 record and ERAs of 6.75 and 10.00 respectively.
But it won’t be Simon or Hale on the mound tonight. Kurt Heyer will be the man called upon to end Arizona’s three game losing streak, and he’s been very tough to hit lately. He only allowed 5 hits and 2 walks in a complete game shut out against a usually potent Oregon St. lineup in his last start, and he’s only been defeated once in 9 starts.
Erik Johnson will be trying to halt Heyer’s win streak, and bounce back from an iffy start of his own. Johnson wasn’t his usual dominant self while allowing 5 runs in 5 innings against USC, though 4 of those runs were due to home runs hit by Ricky Oropesa, USC’s best player. Johnson will have to have his best stuff tonight in what should be the first of many elite pitching matchups during Cal’s Pac-10 schedule. Go Bears!