How about that? Baseball is back!
While the Big Leaguers are merely reporting to Florida or Arizona to start Spring Training, the college game kicked off this week. One of the top matchup that has garnered national attention is none other than this opening weekend series between our sturdy California Golden Bears (a consensus top 15 team in the country) and the always vilified (and good) Duke Blue Devils.
Friday's game saw the matchup of two potential first round picks in the summer's MLB draft. Both Cal's Daulton Jefferies and Duke's Bailey Clark got experiences pitching for the US National team this summer. Both righties also have the ability to throw in the mid-90's consistently.
Clark sports a Dallas Keuchel-like beard.
Bailey Clark's beard vs. Mitchell Kranson's stache just now might be the best facial hair battle of the season. pic.twitter.com/fAoUA2xg3D— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) February 19, 2016
The clean shaven Daulton Jefferies prefers to stand out via his pitching.
With dueling aces, one would expect runs to be at a premium. Consequently, it was a bit disheartening when Duke managed strike first in the 3rd inning thanks to a couple of miscues. New 3rd baseman, Mitchell "El Gaucho" Kranson made an errant throw on a two-out infield hit to allow the first run to score. After a pass ball by catcher Brett Cumberland that allowed the inning to continue, Duke's DH/P Labosky followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0 Blue Devils.
Daulton Jefferies was able to minimize the Duke damage to just those two unearned runs. While for a moment, it looks like Jefferies may be the first guy to be knocked out of this pitchers' duel, Bears were finally able to capitalize in the top of the 6th when the top of the order came to bat. After Aaron Knapp (1 for 5 for the game, with the hit a leadoff of the game) made an out, Devin Pearson reached via a HBP. Back-to-back doubles by Cal's Kranson and Bredan Farney, back in 2016 after missing all of 2015, tie the game up at 2-2. Those hits also knocked Clark out of the game.
El Gaucho and Mr. Farney are a 3-4 not to mess with. They may be small in size but they both raaaaaake!! @Cal_Baseball— Devon Rodriguez (@devrodriguez3) February 19, 2016
While the Bears could not score more against Labosky who came in the game in relief of Clark, the Bears only had to wait one inning to go ahead in the 7th.
Brian Celsi hit an one out triple off Labosky before Preston Grand Pre drove him in with a flare hit. These timely hitting in the 7th made a winner out of Daulton Jefferies (1-0), who went 6 inning strong and struck out 9 Blue Devils to go with just 5 hits and 2 walks allowed (Jefferies' impeccable control was slightly off in this opening game of the season).
Bears tagged on two important insurance runs in the top of the 8th against Cornell transfer Urbon (who is a bit of a potential late round relief prospect in the upcoming draft). A Halamandaris single and a pass ball allowed the Bears to have some breathing room.
After 1.1 inning from Keaton Siomkin in relief, Siomkin was pulled in favor of sophomore Erik Martinez with the tying run at the plate. Martinez struck out his first batter before walking the bases loaded. E-Mar then bounced back by striking out the next guy, as well as all three batters in the 9th. The new Cal closer fanned 5 of the 6 guys that he faced to preserve this win.
Bears face the Blue Devils for two more games this weekend. We will learn if Coach David Esquer goes with a very different lineup against a lefty in game 2 on Saturday.
Between the two throwing errors by Kranson and the pass ball by Cumberland, it was not the cleanest defensive effort by the Bears. Bears did turn an easy 6-4-3 double play at one point, though. Turning double plays was a strength of last year's team.
It is game 1 of a long season, and our Golden Bears are off to a good start. We shall see if Ryan Mason can continue the impressive pitching (15 K's for the Bears today) since a team is only as good as their next day's starter.