Cal baseball’s woes of inconsistency continue: After a comprehensive series victory against No. 25 USC, the Bears returned to Berkeley only to be thumped by Cal Poly.
Cal opened its series against USC in Los Angeles on Friday, March 18. USC surged to an early lead, scoring six runs in the opening two innings. Cal junior pitcher Josh White cleaned up his pitching after the second inning, and the Trojans did not touch home plate again. But while their pitching improved, the Bears’ bats failed to heat up. USC never allowed the Bears to gain a foothold in the game, and the Trojans took the first game 6-2.
On Saturday, the Bears looked to rebound in the second leg of the series. Cal, who had a 4-4 record against ranked teams heading into the weekend, was already well-acquainted with the nation’s best teams — and it put that on full display in the remainder of the series.
This time the Bears scored first, but the teams entered the ninth inning tied at 5-5. Junior outfielder Dylan Beavers’ two-run homer broke the deadlock, and the Bears scored twice more to take a commanding 9-5 lead by the bottom of the inning. Senior pitcher Nick Proctor sealed the Bears’ win with a strikeout and a double-play.
With the series in balance, the Bears returned to Dedeaux Field one more time to decide their first conference meeting of the season.
Freshman pitcher Ian May got the nod to start his first game of the season and, in 5.2 innings, he only allowed two Trojan runs. In the fifth inning, senior catcher Cole Elvis sent a single up the middle of the diamond to score junior first baseman Nathan Martorella and freshman infielder Carson Crawford, giving Cal a 3-2 lead.
The Bears’ bullpen did well to preserve the team’s advantage thereafter. Christian Becerra, Chris Stamos and Proctor provided 3.1 innings of relief to secure victory for the blue and gold. After their Southern California conquest, the Bears returned to Berkeley, looking to ride their momentum through unranked Cal Poly.
Cal opened the game scoring two runs in the first inning, but the Mustangs quickly responded, claiming the lead in the third. Brooks Lee, the Mustang shortstop ranked No. 1 on MLB.com’s list of 2022 draft prospects, launched the go-ahead two-run homer into right field to mark the game’s final lead change.
Cal changed pitchers seven times, but the bullpen had no answer for Cal Poly’s bats, and the Mustangs never looked back. The blue and gold were defeated 14-4 — an embarrassing home defeat after two stellar away wins against USC.
Looking to bounce back from Tuesday’s midweek loss, Cal faces off against No. 6 Oregon State.
The Beavers enter the series as the favorite as they sit third in the Pac-12 rankings with a conference record of 4-2. Though the Bears sit in sixth with a 3-3 record in Pac-12 play, these two teams are by no means on equal footing.
Oregon State’s overall 14-4 record by far overshadows Cal’s overall record of 10-10. Notably, among Oregon State’s 14 wins are two commanding victories over a Gonzaga side that defeated Cal 9-8 in the Bears’ opening weekend.
In the last six meetings between these two sides, the Beavers have taken five. The last time the Bears took down this Oregon State side was in a 3-2 road win in 2019 — which was immediately followed by two losses.
Though history might not be on Cal’s side, a possible advantage is the comparable rigor of each side’s competitions thus far. The Bears have faced off against five nationally ranked teams, in which they are 6–5, while Oregon State has faced none.
With a Cal squad that struggles to consistently perform at its best, the Beavers can very easily sweep them — especially given that the Bears boast a subpar home record of 3-6.
An interesting match up fans should watch for is between Cal’s Dylan Beavers and Oregon State’s Jacob Melton. With remarkable similarities and in-game mechanics, it will be interesting to see how these two perform in each other’s presence.
Most of the pressure will be on Beavers, as his stats this season pale in comparison. Melton owns a .434 batting average with 28 runs on 33 hits while Beavers only has a batting average of .272. Beavers, however, makes the most out of his at-bats, averaging 21 runs out of 22 hits.
After facing this strong opponent, the Bears will have a day to recoup before facing Bay Area neighbor Saint Mary’s in a home nonconference game on Tuesday.
Unlike the lopsided weekend series, this matchup should be much more even. The Gaels have been more successful as they are 14-7 on the year, but have not faced as strong opponents as the Bears have. Both sides did, however, defeat No. 23 Sacramento State within a week of each other with similar scorelines.
While the blue and gold are hoping to go 4-0 this weekend, it is much more likely that they will maintain form and split yet another weekend.