No. 12 Cal baseball set to face San Francisco at home Tuesday night

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When the No. 12 Cal baseball team (1-2) takes the field Tuesday night at Evans Diamond, senior Nick Halamandaris will shoulder much of the Bears’ hopes in winning their first home game of the year against San Francisco (0-4).

The senior displayed inspiring performances against Duke in Cal’s opening series of the season, which the Blue Devils won as a result of two walk-off victories in the final two bouts.

“The mark of a good team or bad team is how you come out of a gut-wrenching series,” Halamandaris said. “We have to pick up the pieces and move forward and play a good brand of baseball on Tuesday.”

Cal will hope that Halamandaris can continue his fine form at the plate. He has a .462 batting average to his name, and he has produced five of the team’s 13 RBI. The senior leads the team in slugging with a .769 percentage, and he has six hits, including two doubles and a triple.

Going up against the struggling Dons will be an opportunity for Halamandaris to strengthen his grip on the team’s leaderboards. San Francisco dropped all four games in its first series of the year against UC Santa Barbara this weekend.

But the Bears know they can’t afford to underestimate the Dons. This is especially true considering that five of the Dons’ hitters have averaged at least .300 so far, albeit in limited plate appearances. San Francisco’s Blake Valley and Brady Bate are currently two of the team’s top sluggers with .667 and .566 percentages, respectively. Valley has notched five RBI, four hits and a triple, while Bate has picked up four hits and one of San Francisco’s four doubles.

Valley and Bate, however, aren’t the only players that the Bears need to look out for. Although the Dons’ Dan James and Dominic Miroglio have gotten off to relatively slow starts, the duo possesses the pedigree to give their team an offensive boost.

James is a newcomer, who led Saddleback College with six home runs last year. He secured 25 RBI, 11 doubles and two triples, while hitting .315 and slugging .537 in 41 games. James will look to smoothly transition into his new team and a higher level of competition. His teammate, Miroglio, is a proven veteran who originally played with UCLA in his freshman year before joining San Francisco last season. Miroglio contributed to the Dons’ efforts by finishing the 2015 season with a .340 batting average, 11 doubles, three home runs and 38 RBI.

Miroglio and James will pose a threat to Cal’s pitchers, who are even more talented than their combined 3.33 ERA indicates. The Bears could have preseason All-American junior Daulton Jefferies as an option for Tuesday’s game. Jefferies excelled during Friday’s game against the Blue Devils, as he tallied nine strikeouts and conceded only two runs in six innings to help lead Cal to its sole victory against Duke.

“We really need to focus on pitching and defense,” Halamandaris said. “Coach Esquer said it from the beginning. That’s going to be our staple. That’s what’s going to keep us in close games.”

Manny Flores covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @manny_0.