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This Week In Cal Baseball: Keeping Hope Alive, Barely

Cal went to Oregon and got swept, then lost their first game to Washington State. It was ugly. And just when you were about to give up entirely on the season, what happens? Of course Cal wins twice in dominating, impressive fashion. As I'm sure I've said before, this team exists solely to convince you they're doomed just so they can pull another Lazarus act.

In fact, I bet I can tell you exactly what will happen this weekend. Cal will lose an ugly game on Friday, then fall behind by a few runs on Saturday before roaring back for a thrilling win and then cruising on Sunday. So it has been written.

At least, that's probably the minimum that needs to happen for Cal to maintain postseason hopes. Cal's RPI still languishes in the 70s, good enough to hold out hope but not good enough for much optimism. Two wins over a top 25 team would certainly push those numbers in the right direction.

The best news last week was a dominating performance by Justin Jones. His complete game 2 hitter is probably the single best pitching performance of the year by any Golden Bear, which is really saying something considering Matt Flemer's All-Pac-12 level season. But Wazzu's strength is their hitting. Allowing just six total bases to the 3rd best offense in the conference is spectacular and is exactly what Cal will need to make the playoffs. If Jones keeps pitching as well as Matt Flemer then the Bears finally have the 1-2 punch to take on tough teams like Arizona, UCLA and Stanford

More Tony Renda thoughts

Last week I wrote a tribute to Tony Renda, but as it turns out I probably should have waited another week. Renda reached base 9 times over the weekend, and moved further up the Cal all-time hits leaderboard. KALX's Danny Freisinger spent lots of time on his broadcast discussing Renda's feats before interviewing him after Cal's Sunday afternoon win, and it got me thinking about Renda's place in Cal history.

Tony Renda just might be the single best contact hitter in Cal history.

I say that for a number of reasons. Firstly, Renda is one of just two player on the all time hits leaderboard with just three years of playing time. The other? The X-man, current major leaguer Xavier Nady. As it stands right now, Renda's pace is likely to take him past Nady in the record books.

The other reason? Tony's had to earn his stats with worse bats. Two years ago the NCAA changed the rules regarding bat material and size, and the result was a big decline in offense. True, the new bats hampered power more than pure contact, but batting average nation wide did drop meaningfully.

But no matter, Tony Renda still kept right on spraying hits all over the field, and he's doing that even more this year. If he shockingly decided to stick around Berkeley for his senior season he could utterly destroy the Cal record book.

Previewing Arizona

The Wildcats have a deep, talented lineup. 5 regulars have a batting average of .350 or higher, and as a result Arizona leads the conference in hitting by a shockingly wide margin. If they have a weakness, it's a lack of patience. They don't take many walks. They also don't strike out much (2nd in the conference in avoiding those Ks) which means that you can expect balls to be put in play. Naturally, you should be nervous because Cal's defense will surely be tested.

So Arizona scores runs - 61 more runs than the next best conference team. But their pitching and defense is vulnerable. The Bears are the undisputed champions of unearned runs this year, but the Wildcats are shockingly close. Arizona's ace Kurt Heyer has similar numbers as Matt Flemer, but their other two starters are both vulnerable. And those two guys will be going against Flemer and Jones. I'm not going to say that Cal should be favored on Saturday and Sunday . . . but playing at home with a pitching advantage, I'd say I like Cal's chances as much as can be reasonably expected.