Bears look to halt four-game skid against Dons

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Coming off a series in which it struggled with all facets of its game, the Cal baseball team will need to get back to the fundamentals to stop its current four-game losing streak 2 p.m. Tuesday at San Francisco.

The first step for the Bears (11-7, 0-3 in the Pac-12) will be to survive the first inning at Dante Benedetti Diamond without shooting themselves in the foot. In last weekend’s three-game home sweep at the hands of Oregon State, Cal put the Beavers on the board by giving away unearned runs in each contest’s first frame. The Bears’ mistakes ran the gamut: Ground balls and pop flies alike bamboozled their infielders. Unfortunately for Cal, the errors — the Bears have committed a staggering 35 through its 18 games — have been a common theme for the season.

Cal will also need to get a good start from lefty Michael Theofanopoulus (0-2, 4.57 ERA) — in the weekend’s sweep, Matt Flemer was the only starter who made it past the fifth inning and gave up less than five runs. Having their starter go deep into Tuesday’s game will be important for the Bears to give their bullpen, which pitched 13 innings over the weekend, a rest.

“Pitching and defense are the two things that have to show up on a daily basis,” said head coach David Esquer after Sunday’s loss. “You’re not guaranteed that your offense will get everybody, but you gotta pitch and you gotta play defense to give yourself a chance to win.”

But Cal knows it can take down the Dons. It already beat San Francisco (10-11) in a tight 5-3 Feb. 28 contest at Evans Diamond. In that game, a short start didn’t affect the Bears: a patchwork of pitchers stitched together the win by stranding 14 San Francisco runners on base.

That being said, it won’t be an easy contest for the Bears, who can’t afford to get complacent if they take an early lead. Although they led wire to wire in the last meeting, the Dons twice pegged Cal back after the Bears had extended their lead.

Cal will also need to leave fewer than the nine runners it stranded on base in the last game against the Dons — something the Bears struggled with over the weekend as they left 20 men on base through the three games. On Sunday alone, they left the bases loaded once and runners on second and third on two other occasions.

The key for Cal will be coming out ready to play from the first pitch. The Bears can play with the best of teams — 11 wins so far this campaign testifies to it — but they need to show up come game time.

And pulling out a win Tuesday could prove critical for Cal’s morale heading into next weekend’s series at Arizona State — a difficult Pac-12 foe.

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