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Golden Medals: Cal Baseball preview, Softball is 5-0, Tennis, Golf, etc.

And quick hits of all else going on in Cal Athletics this weekend

Cal Baseball is back as the season starts today from San Diego.
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For this weekend, be on the look out for a pair of special posts/gamethreads on Saturday as No.1 Cal Men’s Swimming and Diving visits No.5 Stanford at noon PT (Free Live Stream) and No.23 Cal Women’s Gymnastics take on No.25 Stanford at 7:30 PT (on the Pac-12 Networks). On Sunday, learn about 2018 PyeongChang Game Calympian Liz Swaney (a former Cal men’s crew coxswain), before she represents Hungary in the ski halfpipe event on Sunday Night (US time).

Cal Baseball Preview - It’s a “Neu” era for the Golden Bears

2017 Record: 25-29, 15-15 in Pac-12

Key Returnees: Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 1st baseman Andrew Vaughn, RHP/OF Tanner Dodson, Closer Erik Martinez, LHP Matt Ladrech, RHP (and Friday starter for the Bears) Jared Horn

Key Departures: Long time head coach David Esquer, who has returned to his alma mater Stanford, 3B Denis Karas (co-Pac-12 homerun leader with Andrew Vaughn), SS Preston Grand Pre

Key Newcomers: Former pitching coach Mike Neu is now the new Cal head coach, Darren Baker (son of Dusty)

Projected to make the postseason in 2018, Cal Baseball is entering a new era under coach Mike Neu. Bears will be sporting new uniforms, courtesy of Under Armour. It’s the return of the block (and blockier than before) C on the cap with the script “California” or “Golden Bears” on the chest. It’s a pretty sharp look.

Why are the Bears projected to make the postseason (after a near miss last year)? They are returning a lot of players and the bulk of pitching. If he picks up where he left off last year, 1st baseman Andrew Vaughn will vie again for the Pac-12 Player of the Year title yet again. Helping him in the lineup will be Tanner Dodson, one of the top two-way players in college baseball (although his pitching line doesn’t look so great last year with 2-6 record and a 5.37 ERA to go with an encouraging 48 K in 52 innings). Bears also return starting catcher Tyrus Greene, middle infielder Ripken Reyes, short stop Cameron Eden, outfielder Jonah Davis, outfielder Jeffrey Mitchell Jr., and sometimes starter Max Flower.

The strength for the Bears would be the experience on the mound with the returning of MLB 1st round talent in Jared Horn to be that Friday starter, lefty Matt Ladrech for either Saturday/Sunday, and an experienced pen that includes Dodson and closer Erik Martinez (who is somewhat of a surprise to be back this year for his senior season). Other experienced pitchers back include Joey Matulovich, Vaughn (he can be a LOOGY), Andrew Buckley, and Aaron Shortridge (team best returning ERA of 1.99 but had faced more midweek lineups).

Unfortunately, we have to point out the tragedy suffered by Jared Horn this past fall when a drunken driver caused a car accident involved Horn and his family on the I-80. Horn, who was driving, was the lone survivor with his father, brother, uncle, and cousin all perished. It is not completely clear how much Horn is physically or mentally ready for baseball as the season opens today.

Golden Bears will open the year down in San Diego this weekend, playing host San Diego and Cincinnati. Bears will make a trip to play some Texas teams in Frisco, TX in early March in their 2nd non-conference road trip. Non-conference visitors to Berkeley in 2018 includes CSU Bakersfield and Brown (I’m hoping to catch a game or two of the Brown series as I’ll be in town for a Cal alumni conference). Toward the end of the season, the Bears will make a trip to Omaha (the end goal of every year) to play Creighton in a series.

Out of the Pac-12, Oregon State is considered a national title contender. The new look Stanford, helmed by our old friend David Esquer - a Stanford alum, is ranked 9th in the preseason.

Despite just surviving nearly 8 years ago, Cal Baseball may have to cheat death yet again (comes with the territory for being one of the more expensive sport). Fans who have not been to Evans Diamond in the last 5 years or so is missing out on a very different experience (night games! beer garden!) with the same old proximity to the action. Sure, parking in Berkeley is always a pain, but there is no better way to support the program than by going to the games.

Cal Softball (5-0) visiting Palm Springs this weekend

Playing 4 freshmen in the lineup, the Golden Bears open their season with a perfect 4-0 run in Sacramento (one match was cancelled due to darkness) plus a midweek win over UC Davis. While the 5-0 record is nice, Bears have only one run-rule (AKA mercy rule) win out of the 5 with a couple of matches coming down to the end. On the other hand, the Cal squad that barely hit any homers in 2017 has already hit about a homer per game.

What is really working for the Bears so far have been the pitching tandem of Zoe Conley and newcomer Kamalani Dung. The two pitcher have combined for an ERA of 0.21 - currently 5th best in the country.

Currently, freshmen Karlee Sparacino (0.385) and Mikayla Coelho (0.357) have lead the Bears in hitting but it shouldn’t be long before Jazmyn Jackson and Lindsay Rood find their consistency.

Bears will play a total of 5 games down in Palm Spring from Saturday to Monday. They will face Fordham, Loyola Marymount, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly, and UC Riverside. We shall see if the Cal bats can get hotter in the 2nd weekend of action from the desert of Palm Springs.

Cal Men’s Tennis (3-3), got to wait for youth to mature

Falling short of making the ITA Indoors Final 16, the young Golden Bears squad suffered two road losses at Illinois (0-4) and Michigan (1-4). The No.1 recruiting class in the country still needs more time to mature to get the Bears to be at least competitive in these matches at tough environment.

Nevertheless, there is still a long time to go until the NCAA, and there are still plenty of reasons to believe that the Bears can be a dark horse by the end of the season.

After this weekend off, Bears will host the non-conference Big Slam against Stanford next Saturday at February 24th.

Cal Men’s Golf in Palm Desert this weekend

Time is now for Cal Men’s Golf to shine. Bears is competing in the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate (that is taking place in Palm Desert, CA) this weekend and they are off to a great start. Approaching the end of the first round, Bears have a comfortable 9 stroke lead at -13 on 2nd place Texas A&M at -4. Individually, Collin Morikawa, Sebastian Crampton, and James Cheatham are all in the top 5. K.K. Limbhasut is few strokes behind in the top 15.

Crampton, Cheatham, and Limbhasut all took last year off to redshirt and prep for academics.

Bears are looking for their 3rd team win of the 2017-18 season. Limbhasut has also won a tournament as an individual this past fall.

Cal Women’s Tennis (3-1) looking for some consistency with weeks before Pac-12 play

Bears will host UC Santa Barbara on Sunday before a visit to LA for the non-Pac-12 matches against USC and UCLA next weekend. Like the Cal men, women’s tennis also missed out on the ITA Indoors Final 16 (won by North Carolina). Also similar to the Cal men, the team is counting on a number of freshmen.

Anna Bright is the top Bear so far this year, ranked as No.27. Joining the Bears for the spring is freshman Julia Rosenqvist from Norway. Also a freshman in the lineup is Jasie Dunk. Bears have yet to play with senior Karla Popovic this dual season - not sure if she is hurt nor how long she is out. Despite all this, the Golden Bears are still ranked 13th in the country.

Just wait when the freshmen are playing like vets and the Bears are back to full strength.

No.2 Cal Women’s Water Polo is back in the pool at UC Davis

After challenging No.1 Stanford two weeks ago, Golden Bears are now back in the pool to take on UC Davis this weekend after a weekend with just the alumni match. As long as the Bears remain focus, they should have no problem at No.10 UC Davis. Bears will also face off against the Chinese National Team (who edged the Bears earlier this year) at Davis.

After this weekend, Cal will play in the always competitive Barbara Kalbus Invitational in Irvine next week ahead of the much anticipated Big Splash on March 4th at Stanford. That Big Splash should decide who will be the No.1 women’s water polo team in the country.

Cal Men’s Crew to lose Mike Teti to national team in new Bay Area facility

In case you missed this news from a couple weeks ago, Cal Men’s Crew head coach Mike Teti will transition to coach the US National Team after this season. The catch is that he will not have to move too far as US Crew has started a second headquarter (in addition to Princeton, NJ), first one on the west coast, right by where the Golden Bears train.

I would not be shocked if the team follows the lead of other Cal programs in recent year and promote from within. Cal alum, Canadian Calympian, and current assistant head coach Scott Frandsen could just seamlessly step to the front and center.

The Fall racing season starts on March 24th down at San Diego.