Slumping Cal baseball visits Fresno State in nonconference clash

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The season seems to slowly be slipping away from the Cal baseball team. The Bears (16-19) keep showing why they have the potential to be a great team — like their most recent win over No. 7 Washington — but they haven’t been able to maintain any sort of high-caliber play.

There are flashes of greatness — Devon Rodriguez hitting the snot out of the ball, Kyle Porter pitching lights out, Aaron Knapp taunting the opposing team with his speed — but, very quickly, the Bears that looked like they should be a top-tier team were replaced with ones that have trouble getting runs across the plate.

While the Bears have had an especially difficult schedule, they’ve also struggled against teams they should have beaten. Now, after a long stretch of conference play, the Bears are heading down to Fresno State to take on the Bulldogs (19-21) on Tuesday.

The last time the Bears and Bulldogs met, Cal head coach David Esquer called it “one of the worst games that a Cal team has played in a couple of years.” The Bears struggled to put any runs on the board — Fresno State pitcher William Munro, a junior,  pitched a complete game — and freshman Alex Martinez struggled with his pitch control.

The Bulldogs have a trio of strong hitter who will look to make the life of Cal’s starter miserable: junior Jordan Luplow (.364 batting average), sophomore Taylor Ward (.338 batting average) and junior Chris Mariscal (.304 average). Still, Fresno State has struggled in ways similar to the Bears, with problems putting runs on the board in the later innings and allowing other teams to stage late comebacks.

That means it will be up to Cal’s starter, freshman Alex Martinez (0-2, 5.73 ERA), to pitch a solid game and keep the Bears competitive. Because Cal’s last one-game trip was this March when the Bears and Bulldogs played, Martinez hasn’t been tested in the past month.

On the opposite side of the lineup, righty Blake Quinn (0-1, 7.36 ERA) will take the mound. With two high ERAs, the game might turn into a competition to see who has the deeper bullpen.

The Bears’ lineup has been fluctuating and will likely continue to do so as the team goes into the rest of the season. Beside junior Brenden Farney (.333 batting average), the batting averages are mediocre at best. Redshirt sophomore Brian Celsi (.276 batting average) and junior Derek Campbell (.271 batting average) are the next closest to Farney, and it hurts that players such as redshirt senior Vince Bruno (.255 batting average), who at one point had the Pac-12 best batting average, and sophomore Devin Pearson (.170 batting average), who started the season with a high on-base percentage, have had trouble seeing the ball.

Cal has quite a few young players who are greedy for hits and want to prove themselves to their coach to demonstrate why they deserve to be one of the starting nine players over the next few seasons. Freshman Aaron Knapp has seen some playing time, his speed helping the team score runs, as has freshman Lucas Erceg, who is a dual threat both on the mound and at the plate. Still, the two are batting .262 and .179, respectively.

Shannon Carroll covers baseball. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @scarroll431.