Before the No. 17 Cal baseball team (20-9, 8-4 Pac-12) can come back home and relish in the atmosphere of playing in front of a supportive home crowd once again, the Bears will need to end their latest stretch of road fixtures. A three-game series against the Sun Devils (18-12, 4-8) awaits the Bears this weekend, and a few wins against Arizona State will go a long way in securing Cal a coveted postseason run.
Despite the fatigue the Bears have accumulated up to this point of the year, particularly during away matches, Cal will need to be as ferocious as ever to defeat Arizona State.
“I don’t really think there’s much of a fatigue level. This is kind of the part of the season where everybody starts getting used to their bodies being sore,” said senior Mitchell Kranson.
Cal will once again miss out on having star junior pitcher Daulton Jefferies lead the charge this weekend. The junior suffered lower body stiffness earlier this month, moments before he was set to take his spot on the mound against UCLA. The Bears won’t look to rush Jefferies back into the fold Friday, likely so that he can be at his best when needed to neutralize stronger opposition. But Kranson is optimistic that the team will overcome the setback.
“We have guys who step up,” Kranson said. “Ryan Mason has done a great job stepping up into the Friday night role. We have haven’t missed a beat. Daulton obviously makes our pitching staff stronger, but we have the depth where other people can step up.”
Regardless of who fills in for Jefferies on Friday, Cal’s pitchers will need to step up their game in every match and remain sharp against the Sun Devils’ batters, who have amassed an overall .264 average. The Bears will need to look out for Arizona State’s junior infielder Colby Woodmansee.
Woodmansee has been a significant factor for the Sun Devils’ success this season, as he has notched 11 doubles, four home runs and leads the team in RBIs with 27. In the Sun Devils’ latest bout against Arizona on Tuesday, Woodmansee picked up his team-leading 14th multi-hit and ninth multi-RBI game. The junior’s strong form has him poised to give the Bears a challenge. But his fellow hitters are more than capable of picking up the slack as well.
Junior infielder David Greer, who has recorded 11 doubles, three home runs and 21 RBIs, is no slouch. Greer has proven to be one of the Sun Devils’ more reliable players this year, and his exploits earned him a Pac-12 Player of Week honor last month. More importantly, Greer’s ability to play first, second, third, left field and even on the mound will provide Arizona State an extra dimension for readjusting its strategy if needed.
“We got to pitch well,” Kranson said. “We got to play good defense. Just like coach Esquer says, we got to get the timely hit.”
Arizona State, however, will also need to stay attentive against Cal’s strong offense, which has notched a .289 batting average and 181 runs. Both programs have talented offenses, but the series may come down to who wants it most.