The Cal baseball team will finish its season with seven straight matches at home — but don’t expect their luck to get much better.
A week after being swept by No. 5 Oregon State, Cal now has to face No. 13 Arizona State in a weekend series beginning on Friday at Evans Baseball Diamond.
Arizona State (30-14-1, 12-9 in the Pac-12) ranks fourth in the conference and comes in to Berkeley looking to improve its postseason seeding. The surging Sun Devils recently secured their 30th win of the season on Sunday and have now notched 51 consecutive 30-win seasons — the most in NCAA history.
Meanwhile, Cal is floundering. After amassing a 16-12 record through the end of March, the Bears proceeded to go on an eight-game losing streak to begin April — and they haven’t recovered since.
Cal now holds a mediocre 21-26 season record, including 9-15 in the Pac-12, which has left the team in ninth place in the conference. The Bears’ postseason chances are essentially out the window.
Just two years ago, the Bears had a young, promising and star-studded roster: a potential major leaguer in Devon Rodriguez, a star in the making with Andrew Knapp and a standout pitching duo between Justin Jones and Kyle Porter. After a series of misfortunes, most notably Rodriguez’s season-ending knee injury in 2012, Cal’s chrysalis of young talent never blossomed the way the Bears wanted.
Right now, Knapp is still trying to keep Cal’s offensive ship from sinking completely. Knapp currently leads the Bears in batting average, hits, runs and RBIs, but Cal as a whole is only managing a .264 batting average.
The Bears’ subpar pitching is in no way helping Cal’s offense either. A combined ERA of 4.50 from Cal’s pitching staff is letting their opponents hit a .292 batting average off of the Bears. If Cal’s pitchers can’t get it together against Arizona State’s hard-hitting offense — led by outfielder Trever Allen — the Bears are in for a rough weekend.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is battling injuries once again. In 2012, it was his knee, and now it’s his shoulder. The previous first baseman dislocated his shoulder late in the fall in a scrimmage game and has been limited to the role of designated hitter for most of the season because of it. Rodriguez was once well on his way to becoming an MLB draft pick, but he is now heading toward his fourth year playing in Berkeley for the 2014 season.
Although he has been unable to man his usual post at first base, Rodriguez has been a constant force for the Bears on the offensive end. He is second behind Knapp in RBIs — fighting on despite the need for a shoulder surgery that he will undergo as soon as the season is over.
Against Arizona State, the Bears will need all of their players to be at the top of their form in order to have any hope of winning.
While Cal continues to struggle this season, the team will look to return in 2014 with much of that same roster that took them to the College World Series in 2011.
But by then, they will be older, healthier and maybe better.