At the start of the season, college baseball fans wondered how the Bears would bounce back from a lackluster 2013 season and the loss of their star, Andrew Knapp, to the major leagues. Now, the Bears (10-8) are a third of the way through the regular season, and pieces seem to slowly be falling together.
The next step in the learning process will come Tuesday against Fresno State (13-7), with the first pitch at 6:35 p.m. After a disappointing series against defending College World Series champions UCLA over the weekend, the Bears hope they can snap their three-game losing streak.
Redshirt senior Devon Rodriguez, the team’s designated hitter, said the players realized they didn’t play their best baseball against UCLA and are looking to clean up some of their mistakes against Fresno State to get “back to the winning side.” While pitching has been the team’s strength this season, the team needs to shore up its defense and have more productive at-bats up and down the lineup.
“It was a disappointing series,” Rodriguez said. “But we understand as a team that it’s a long season, and we can’t dwell over one bad weekend.”
He added, “Fresno is always a solid team, but we’re honestly focused on ourselves and getting back to what we do best, because we know if we do that, then we feel we can beat anyone in the country.”
Freshman right-hander Alex Martinez (0-1, 1.38 ERA, 13 IP) is scheduled to start against the Bulldogs. Martinez has a nasty four-seam fastball that vacillates between 86 and 91 mph in his repertoire, as well as an outstanding curveball. In his last start against USF, he went 5.1 innings, giving up six hits and only one run, a home run.
The Bears’ starting rotation — freshman Daulton Jefferies (2-1, 3.86 ERA, 25.2 IP), junior Michael Theofanopoulos (1-3, 3.80 ERA, 21.1 IP) and senior Kyle Porter (2-1, 1.78 ERA, 25.1 IP) with Martinez also making a few appearances — has been good, although there have been a few hiccups with pitchers having some trouble making it deep into the game.
But, the Bears have been aided by stellar bullpen appearances from guys like sophomore Ryan Mason (2-0, 0.96 ERA, 9.1 IP), junior Keaton Siomkin (1-0, 1.29 ERA, 14 IP) and freshman Lucas Erceg (0-0, 1.35 ERA, 6.2 IP), who have been lights out.
The addition of the freshman pitchers has helped fill the gaps in a previously struggling pitching corps. Last year, injuries forced many changes in the rotation when some bullpen pitchers were forced into starting roles. This year’s team’s 2.78 ERA is the third best in an incredibly strong Pac-12.
On the other hand, the team’s .224 batting average is the lowest in the Pac-12. A number of players have tried to fill the vacancy that Knapp left behind, but the Bears’ offensive production has been weak. Cal head coach David Esquer seems to have solidified his lineup, but the Bears have had trouble scoring runs, especially in later innings. Derek Campbell is tied for the most home runs in the Pac-12 with three, but that hasn’t been enough to help propel the Bears.