Heading into the last series of the regular season beginning Thursday, the Bears aim to pour it on the Washington Huskies in an effort to earn a spot in the Pac-12 tournament. A series win could get Cal out of the storm and to the other side of the rainbow — but this won’t be an easy task.
The Bears enter these final games 10-17 in conference and 22-25 overall, tied with Arizona for ninth place in the Pac-12 standings and the final position to enter the playoffs. On the upper side of the bracket, the Huskies sit comfortably in second place with a 16-10 conference record and have 10 more wins overall compared to Cal.
Although the Bears started to heat up offensively against UCLA earlier this month, they hit a bump in their mojo against Washington State this past weekend. The Bears dropped two of three games at Evans Diamond, but the team hopes to reignite its previous offensive display and open the floodgates against the Huskies.
Not only will Cal have to get to Washington’s pitching, but it will also have to contain the Huskies’ lineup, which has been scalding hot as of late. The Huskies have shown out in the last 12 games, going 11-1 in a thunderous display of offense. In the last series against Oregon — a team that was 31-16 heading into the three-game set — Washington put up double-digit runs in every game and outscored a competitive Ducks’ roster 43-18.
As a benchmark, the Bears lost two games out of three to Oregon back toward the end of April, only managing to sneak away with one victory in the late innings of Game 2.
That being said, the Huskies did not score more than eight runs in a game in their series against the Cougars, coming away with a loss. This was Washington’s last defeat since the start of its current six-game win streak. On the other hand, the Bears tallied 16 runs in their lone victory against the same Washington State team, which needs to be the type of offense on display this weekend against the Huskies.
Despite Washington being the favorite on paper, past results say otherwise: The Bears hold a 35-27 all-time record when facing the Huskies. On top of this, Cal won eight of the last 10 matchups between these teams and has not lost a series to Washington since 2017.
For history to repeat itself, the Bears will need to attack the Huskies’ starters early. The pitching matchup for Game 1 is likely to be Case Matter or Calvin Kirchoff for Washington against Christian Becerra or Paulshawn Pasqualotto for Cal.
The Bears will also need to be wary of Huskies’ pitcher Kiefer Lord, who is bound to make an appearance in this series and is tied for second in the conference with six wins. On the other side of the diamond, hitter Will Simpson poses a dangerous home run threat, leading the Pac-12 with 17 long balls.
In a race to the finish, the contenders in the mix — Washington State, Arizona, Cal and Utah — all have tough opponents to face, making the eighth and ninth spots in the tournament anyone’s game. The Bears’ entrance into the tournament is contingent on a series win against the Huskies, in conjunction with the Cougars or the Wildcats suffering series losses in their respective matchups.
The Bears look to give the Huskies their first loss since May 5 to start on the right foot. This three-game series decides the fate of Cal in 2023, and all eyes will be on the bottom of the Pac-12 standings to see who can clinch the last spots on the plane to Scottsdale.