Happy MLB Opening Day! While this is not an official holiday (despite real life effort by some to make it a federal holiday — the new schedule in 2018 that have all 30 teams scheduled to open* on the same day is a great start for that), today marks a historically earliest start for MLB action in its long history. Consequently, we open this week’s updates on Cal Baseball/Softball with a MLB Bears update.
Breaking camp with the Big League club to have your name announced in the pregame on-field ceremony on Opening Day is a big deal for a lot of professional baseball players. 5 Cal Golden Bears alum will experience that today.
2017 MLB Postseason hero for the Los Angeles Dodgers (I know, they did lose the World Series) and the highest drafted Cal Baseball alum in history thus far, Brandon Morrow, has a brand new team. Morrow is now with the 2016 World Series champs, the Chicago Cubs. Signed to a big deal, Morrow will open the year as the closer (although manager Joe Madden may have a fairly creative usage of his pen).
Also vets on the MLB rosters by now are Marcus Semien with the Oakland A’s and former A’s Tyson Ross with the San Diego Padres. Semien will again be the starting short stop for the A’s. Right handed pitcher Ross proved that he was healthy enough to earn a starting rotation spot with the rebuilding Padres squad.
Making their MLB debuts in 2017 and experiencing their 1st MLB opening day today are catcher Andrew Knapp with the Philadelphia Phillies and Trevor Hildenberger with the Minnesota Twins. Knapp will open the year as the backup catcher, behind an even more inexperienced Jorge Alfaro, for the rebuilding Phillies. Hildenberger, who only started to pitch sidearm in his
senior junior year in Berkeley (HT to Ryan Gorcey of Bear Territory for the correction), was a very important part of the Twins bullpen during their playoff push last year. Despite some struggle this spring, the sidearmer will still break camp with the reigning AL 2nd Wild Card team.
Brandon Morrow - Chicago Cubs
Trevor Hildenberger - Minnesota Twins
Marcus Semien - Oakland Athletics
Andrew Knapp - Philadelphia Phillies
Tyson Ross - San Diego Padres
Of course, a couple other Cal Baseball alumni will be just off the field but having great influences over the games as two of the 30 MLB managers are Cal Baseball alum. Former catcher Bob Melvin has been in charged of the A’s since 2011. Former pitcher Bryan Price took over the Reds before the 2014 season. More Cal connections as Price took over the Reds from current Cal Parent Dusty Baker.
Bob Melvin - Oakland Athletics
Bryan Price - Cincinnati Reds
*Rain in the forecast means that the Washington Nationals at the Cincinnati Reds opening game has been pushed to Friday.
Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn leads all of NCAA with 13 homers; Baseball (14-9, 1-5 in Pac-12) hosts UCLA
After dropping the first two games at Eugene, Oregon this past weekend against the Oregon Ducks, the Golden Bears have rebounded with two straight wins. In both the finale against the Ducks and Tuesday’s home game against UC Davis, Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn continued his historic start to the year by hitting homeruns. Vaughn is now up to 13 homers, surpassing his Pac-12 high total of 12 (tied with teammate, since drafted, Dennis Karas) at still the first half of the season.
Vaughn is not just hitting for power only though; he is hitting a very healthy line of 0.468 (batting average)/0.611 (on base percentage)/1.038 (slugging percentage) through 79 at bats in 23 games. He has 23 walks and 6 HBP to just 7 strikeouts on the year. Those are incredible, video game like numbers that are hard to accomplish even with the metal bats in the college game, particularly since they have banned the springier composite bats to slow down the bats (they all have to pass the BBCOR - Batted Ball Coefficient of Restitution test) since the 2011 season.
Of course, this means that Vaughn was also getting his hits in the two losses to the Ducks to open the first road Pac-12 series for the Golden Bears.
Cal 5, Oregon 8
The Friday series opener saw the Bears having defensive issues yet again. Ace Jared Horn allowed 6 runs (but only 2 earned) in the first three innings to put the Bears in a hole. Horn battled through and pitched all the way into the 8th inning before tiring (and allowing two more runs to score). Unfortunately, the Cal offense has just cut the lead back down to 1 before that bottom of the 8th inning. SS Cameron Eden went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI and a SB.
Ducks’ ace Matt Mercer struck out 8 Bears in 6 innings. Bears’ comeback came against reliever Parker Kelly who tossed three innings for the save.
Cal 2, Oregon 7
Aaron Shortridge struck out 8 Ducks in his 5.2 IP outing but also gave up 4 earned runs as Oregon scored 2 in the 6th and 2 in the 7th to turn a pitcher’s duel into a rout. Bears can’t do much against Ducks’ Kenyon Yovan although both Andrew Vaughn and Tyrus Greene went 2 for 4 in the game for the Bears.
Cal 5, Oregon 3
A three run bomb by Andrew Vaughn made it 5-0 Bears in the 5th inning. Senior Tanner Dodson came in from CF to throw 3.2 innings for the save. Ducks mounting a 9th inning rally, scoring 2 to get within 2, but Dodson got the tying run to fly out to center. Senior LHP Matt Ladrech was credited with the win.
Cal 9, UC Davis 3
Vaughn hit a solo blast to put the Bears ahead but it was his bases loaded, two out, two run single in the 5th that triple the Cal lead then that is perhaps the bigger play. Both Vaughn and 2B Darren Baker went 3 for 5 in this game. Jonah Davis hit his 6th homer on the year as well. With 7 K’s in 5 innings and 2 unearned runs allowed, sophomore Rogelio Reyes got the W.
Even with Vaughn’s hitting heroics, Cal Baseball still struggle in certain situations despite having 4 guys with better than 0.350 OBP (Vaughn, Greene, Davis, and Dodson). With 21 of the 121 runs allowed this year being unearned, that defense has got to improve for the Bears to win more close games, particular against the top teams.
Golden Bears will host No.15 UCLA Bruins (15-5, 5-1 in Pac-12) Thursday through Saturday this week from Evans Diamond. The Bruins swept Washington State and then won the first two against ASU before dropping their last game.
Coach Mike Neu will keep Horn on his regular rest and save him for Game 2 of this series.
Thursday, March 29 - 7 p.m. PT
UCLA - Jake Bird, RHP, Sr. (2-1, 1.17 ERA)
CAL - Matt Ladrech, LHP, Sr. (2-3, 4.97 ERA)
Friday, March 30 - 6 p.m. PT
UCLA - Zach Pettway, RHP, Fr. (4-0, 2.35 ERA)
CAL - Jared Horn, RHP, So. (3-2, 4.81 ERA)
Saturday, March 31 - 2 p.m. PT
UCLA - TBA
CAL - Aaron Shortridge, RHP, Jr. (1-1, 3.03 ERA)
KALX will have the call yet again, but this series will not be televised.
The Bruins are known for their great pitching thus far in 2018. As a team, they have allowed just 25 earned runs for an ERA of 1.93. For comparison, Cal’s pitching staff have allowed 100 earned runs for an ERA of 4.39. Not that Fielding Percentage is a good stat at all, but the Bruins are 12th in the nation with 0.982.
Sophomore outfielder/DH Toglia is leading the Bruins with a line of 0.329/0.519/0.689 with 4 homeruns. That would be like 3rd or 4th best on the Golden Bears team.
Cal Softball (24-8, 1-5 in Pac-12) visits Arizona while still seeking first Pac-12 series win
On to the Softball diamond, it was a rather frustrating homestand for Cal Softball last week against the visiting No.10 Arizona State Sun Devils. Both Friday and Saturday games saw the Bears fought back to tie the game in regulation, blew golden chances (runner on 2nd with 0 outs) to score the winning run, then lost the games in the 10th inning. Bears certainly played well enough to not be swept, but they just could not score a run when needed against the ASU ace lefty G. (Giselle) Juarez.
Juarez kept the predominantly lefty Cal lineup in check last week; she either won the game or recorded the save for all three games.
Cal 2, Arizona 4 (10 innings)
Juarez struck out 17 Bears in this one. Cal took advantage of 3 ASU errors to tie this game up in B7 but blew chances to walk-off. ASU hit three homers, including Stankiewicz’s 2nd, two-run one, off Conley in the 10th in this win. Ninemire chose to start Dung who went 7 innings and got 7 K to just 3 hits but also allowed 6 walks.
Cal 1, Arizona 3 (10 innings)
For the most part this was a scoreless pitcher’s duel between Cal’ Zoe Conley and ASU’s Breanna Macha. Conley went the distance in throwing 10 innings for the Bears. Macha left the game in B8 after allowing two Bears to reach with no out, but Juarez came in and shut everything down, striking out 8 in 3 innings.
Cal 0, Arizona 4
On get away day, the Bears can only muster 4 hits (2 of them are doubles). Kamalani Dung (14-1) allowed 4 runs, 3 earned for her first loss of the year.
The Cal offense was kept in check by the Sun Devils. While Jazmyn Jackson and Lindsay Rood were able to get on base sometimes, the rest of the lineup was shutdown. Freshman Mikayla Coehlo, Bears’ leading homerun and RBI threat, struck out 9 times in 12 AB in the three games. Unfortunately for the Cal bats, things are not going to get any easier this weekend.
No.22 Bears will visit No.11 Arizona Wildcats (24-6, 3-3 in Pac-12) this weekend at Tucson. The Wilcats swept the Utes the first weekend before being swept by No.1 Washington in 3 close games (first two went to extra innings, last one by mere two runs). No Pac-12 Networks but free live streams are available for these three games - 5 pm PT (Thu), 5 pm PT (Fri), 11 AM PT (Sat).
Junior LHP Taylor McQuillin is the ace for the Wildcats; she is tied for the NCAA lead with 16 wins, 8 of which are via shutouts. McQuillin is 8th in the country with 153 K and 23rd with an ERA of 1.01.
Sophomore Jessie Harper (0.354) is U of A’s best bat. She has 11 homers on the year to lead the team that is 3rd nationally in homeruns per game (1.40). Fellow sophomores Alyssa Palomino (0.452), Reyna Carrano (0.386), Malia Martinez (0.381) and Dejah Mulipola (0.322) have combined with Harper to hit 33 homeruns. As a team, the Wildcats are hitting 0.325 while slugging 0.547. It’s going to be another tough weekend for the Cal pitching tandem of Zoe Conley and Kalamani Dung.