Cal hopes to get defensive in Long Beach

After sweeping Pacific last weekend to open up the 2012 season, the Bears will face Long Beach State in a three-game series.
Jan Flatley-Feldman/File
After sweeping Pacific last weekend to open up the 2012 season, the Bears will face Long Beach State in a three-game series.

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Last weekend, the Cal baseball proved it can pitch, hit and run the bases pretty well.

Now, the question is, can the Bears field?

If you could find any black mark on Cal’s season so far — no mean feat, considering the team’s 3-0 record, .330 batting average, 2.00 team ERA and seven stolen bases so far this year — it would be the squad’s five fielding errors.

Most were misplays of basic grounders. Another came on a botched pickoff throw. Miraculously, the rash of errors only led to one unearned run. But the Bears can’t expect that run of luck to hold forever, especially in the upcoming series against Long Beach State, a much stronger team than the Pacific squad Cal swept last weekend.

The Bears travel to Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif., this weekend to begin a three game set Friday at 6:30 p.m.

“I have confidence we can play good defense, I really do,” said coach David Esquer after Sunday’s win, although he did acknowledge that the team’s fielding is “a work in progress.”

Poll voters largely ignored the Cal’s defensive errors. Collegiate Baseball moved the Bears up two spots to No. 20 in the country in its Feb. 20 rankings.

Esquer’s confidence runs through all the players on the squad, who still feel they can depend on each other despite the past mistakes.

“I trust my defense,” said Michael Theofanopoulos, who started Sunday and gave up an unearned run. “They can make errors, and I’ll keep giving them the ball. It doesn’t really bother me, because I know they’re going to make plays when I need it.”

That faith isn’t completely misplaced, considering that the team did play some brilliant defense against Pacific. Second basemen Tony Renda pulled off a Nomar-esque backhand stab and leap deep behind the bag, and the outfield has been rock solid so far.

But the Bears are running out of time to chalk their mistakes up to inexperience and rust. They need to buckle down on their defense overall and not give their opponents any freebies.

Esquer highlighted this weekend’s road trip before the season started, saying that it would be one of the tougher series of the season. The 49ers (2-2) began their season with a series win over Virginia Commonwealth University and lost a midweek game to USC Tuesday.

Minimizing mistakes will be especially important against a speedy Long Beach State squad — fleet-footed leadoff hitter Brennan Metzger already has three stolen bases on the season and consistently puts the ball in play, batting .545 on the season — poised to take advantage of Cal mistakes.

Of course, the team could probably survive another hiccupy performance by the defense if the Bears continues to hit and pitch the way they have.

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