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Cal Baseball hosts rival Stanford in a crucial home series

The Golden Bears can use a big series win over Stanford to revive their difficult postseason chance.

Cal Baseball freshman 1st baseman Andrew Vaughn is having a great year.
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With only 9 games left in the regular season, all against extremely tough opponents (Stanford, TCU, and at Arizona who have RPI’s of 10th, 6th, and 15th in the country respectively), Cal Baseball needs to go 6-3 to be postseason eligible (realistically, winning all three remaining series). The extremely young Cal squad has exceeded expectation so far on the year that it is already an accomplishment to be mathematically plausible to make the postseason this late on the year. Nonetheless, nothing would be more satisfying than to take this three game Pac-12 series from rival Stanford.

Cal and Stanford have already met twice this year in non-conference play (down in Stanford to offset the main series being in Berkeley). These midweek games have not gone all that well for the Bears, resulting in an 4-8 and 4-6 defeats. Then again, Cal’s pitching depth (pivotal for these midweek games) has not been the strength this year - there has been some really really ugly midweek games such as the April 11 game vs. St. Mary’s. Bears are in better position to win the regular weekend matchup.

Also in the Bears’ favor is their splendid home record this year. The Cal Bears are 16-6 from Evans Diamond with a 10-2 record in Pac-12 play. Let’s hope that trend continues through the end of the season.

In their last series, the Bears almost took the Saturday game from No.1 Oregon State. Against one of the best pitching staff in the country, Bears hit 4 homers in that game to fall just short at 10-11. Bears were swept in the series with less competitive 0-8 and 2-10 results on Friday and Sunday, respectively.

The Cal offense is lead by one of the top freshman in the country in 1st baseman Andrew Vaughn. Vaughn, who can also pitch if needed, has Pac-12 leading 12 homers on the season while slashing 0.348/0.425/0.586 (batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage) to go with a team leading 45 RBI - very, very impressive numbers (7th in the Pac in batting average and 4th in RBI - for those wondering about his triple crown chances). Also hitting well, including 2 homers in the game alluded above, is junior 3rd baseman Denis Karas - the lone lineup regular in 2017 who had ample experience from before (Karas earned a starting job in the 2nd half of 2016). Karas has 10 homers (2nd in the Pac) and 32 RBIs to go with a slash line of 0.254/0.328/0.480 (that OBP is a bit low). As a team, the Bears are hitting a combined slash line of 0.287/0.366/0.425 with three guys (Vaughn, catcher Tyrus Greene, and outfielder Jeffrey Mitchell Jr) having a better than 0.400 OBP.

Less consistent for the Bears have been the pitching. Bears have a freshman ace in Jared Horn (3-5, 4.48 ERA) and another solid starter in lefty Matt Ladrech (2-2, 3.86 ERA). Behind those two (who both have had their ups and downs), head coach David Esquer has gone with both Tanner Dodson and Joey Matulovich. The most steady pitcher on the staff has been junior closer Erik Martinez (3-2, 2.60 ERA, 6 saves) who have been used for 2-3 innings in tight games to maximize the Bears’ win probabilities.

Defensively, the Bears have had a few web gems in recent games. Freshman middle infielder Cameron Eden has had a few amazing plays as of late. An example is this gem.

After some early season struggles, Stanford has played quite well as of late. The Cardinal has won 12 of the last 13 in their head coach (and Esquer’s mentor) Mark Marquess’ final year. Quinn Brody is their top hitter (3rd in the lineup) and has gone 4 for 8 in the two games against Cal.

The Stanford starting pitchers trio of Bubic, Summerville, and Castellanos have been consistently solid all year. Bears have not face any of them in the two games earlier this year. Junior Colton Hock is Stanford’s closer; the Bears have not done anything against the guy who just recently set a new Stanford single season save record (14) in two innings against him.

It is the crunch time of the season and it should be all hands on deck (as Erik Martinez’s recent workload has indicated). Should the Bears prevail this weekend, it will likely be through some dramatic fashion. Nothing will keep the postseason hope alive and lift the team’s spirit to believe more than a big weekend series victory over rival Stanford. Cal fans, do you believe in this Cal Baseball team?

Probable pitching match-ups:

Saturday, May 13, 4:05 p.m.

Cal: RHP Jared Horn (3-5, 4.48 ERA)

Stanford: LHP Kris Bubic (4-6, 3.47 ERA)

Sunday, May 14, 12:05 p.m.

Cal: LHP Matt Ladrech (2-2, 3.86 ERA)

Stanford: LHP Andrew Summerville (3-1, 3.86 ERA)

Monday, May 15, 6:05 p.m.

Cal: TBA

Stanford: LHP Chris Castellanos (7-2, 3.42 ERA)

Cal Baseball (21-24, 12-12 in Pac-12) vs. Stanford (31-13, 13-8 in Pac-12)

Where: Evans Diamond (Berkeley, CA)

When: Saturday, 4pm PT; Sunday, 12pm PT; Monday, 6pm PT

TV: Pac-12 Networks