No matter what age, sport or level of play, there is always a healthy mix of excitement and nervousness at the start of any season. With one weekend of baseball already wrapped up in the books, the new year jitters for Cal baseball have subsided.
After a stretch of three closely contested games during which the Bears won one and lost two, Cal will return to Berkeley for a four-game series against Cal State Bakersfield this weekend.
For newly minted head coach Mike Neu, the team’s first tournament down in San Diego provided him with a nice outlook of where his team stands. Various factors such as who he can trust out of the bullpen, who he can count on to provide a timely hit and who he can have confidence in to deliver a strong start will all become invaluable down the season when games start to bear more importance.
“Last weekend was a good learning experience,” Neu said. “Figuring out exactly what our roles are going to be in the bullpen will be important moving forward.”
CSU Bakersfield comes into this affair after splitting its first homestand of the season against UC Davis and St. Mary’s.
The first two games for the Roadrunners were hardly the type of start that the Western Athletic Conference runners-up from a season ago were looking for. Against UC Davis, CSU Bakersfield was embarrassed, 8-1 and 15-1. In both games, the Roadrunners were able to accumulate hits but were never able to drive runners in.
In the third game against UC Davis, however, the team’s bats woke up, and CSU Bakersfield exploded for 14 runs on 15 hits to claim a 14-7 victory.
Monday’s ball game against Saint Mary’s, unlike the previous three games, was a low-scoring pitching duel. In the end, the Roadrunners eked out a 3-2 win, capping a tournament of two different teams.
“We’re hoping to have a good series,” Neu said. “We know that Bakersfield is a tough team and know they are going to do a lot of things to put some pressure on us.”
As for Cal, pitching is certainly an area of the game that can use some improvement. Aside from sophomore Jared Horn, the Bears will look for other starters to step up and and provide longer quality starts. After a week of practice, the bullpen will attempt to be stronger and leak less runs.
On the offensive side, the Bears hit well in their first two games but were not able to bring runners home in their third game, stranding six guys on the base pads. Timely hitting will be a must against quality pitching from Bakersfield.
Lastly, sophomore Andrew Vaughn will look to pick up right where he left off after hitting .538 over the weekend.
Overall, the comforts of a home crowd against a weaker team on paper should prove beneficial for the Bears. Nonetheless, the mistakes that cost Cal in San Diego will have to be rectified, especially against a solid opposition.
A good first series at home will help provide a nice jumpstart for what will be a long and difficult campaign.
Praveen Kuruppu covers baseball. Contact him at