After a cakewalk of a series against Lehigh, the Cal baseball team can expect much stiffer competition from its next guest, Creighton.
Head coach David Esquer highlighted the Jays’ 1:30 p.m. Tuesday visit to Evans Diamond before the season began as one of the tougher games of the season, and Creighton (5-3), while never achieving a ranking, has received votes in national polls.
The No. 25 Bears are in a good frame of mind to take on the Jays, though. The squad should be brimming with confidence after spectacularly drubbing Lehigh over the weekend. In outscoring the Mountain Hawks 37-6 over three games, the Bears’ bats and arms fired on all cylinders.
The Bears will be well-rested for the game, too, having cycled through their position players and bullpen over the course of Sunday’s doubleheader to keep everyone fresh.
“(Reliever) Joey Donofrio didn’t pitch this weekend and (closer) Logan Scott pitched one inning (Sunday), so both those guys are fresh,” said pitching coach Mike Neu. “We’re going into that game feeling good about what we’re going out there with. But at the same time (Creighton’s) going to be a good team and it’ll be a … tough midweek fight.”
Sophomore lefty Michael Theofanopoulos (0-1, 2.25 ERA) will be on the mound to begin the contest against Creighton, which is coming off a series sweep of UC Davis. Cal will expect him to continue the team’s excellent early-season starting pitching. Bears starters have lasted at least five innings while giving up less than three runs in all but three of the team’s 10 games so far — and in one of those instances Cal purposely pulled sophomore Kyle Porter early to ease him back from injury.
In that game — Sunday’s 18-3 win over Lehigh — several pitchers out of the Bears’ untested bullpen auditioned for larger roles. Such experience will be crucial as Cal begins facing tougher opponents, beginning with Creighton, which won 45 games last year.
“We need guys to pitch beyond their experience,” Neu said. “That’s why we’re trying to get these guys in there a little bit more now, to see if they can step up. So far they’ve done a pretty good job.”
The Bears will test their mettle against a Creighton offense led by second baseman Jake Peter, who is hitting .474 on the season with four doubles. The freshman didn’t make an appearance until the third game of the season, when he began hitting at a torrid clip and put an iron grip on the starting spot.
The Bears will look to get the Jays’ starter out of the game early so it can feast on Creighton’s relatively weaker bullpen, which has surrendered almost all of the team’s opponents’ runs this season. If recent history is any indicator — Cal’s batters knocked all of Lehigh’s starters out before the end of the fourth inning in the weekend’s games — the Bears stand a good chance of doing so.
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