Guess who just got back today? Them wild-eyed Bears who had been away.
The No. 12 Bears (9-3) are back in town, coming back after handing Texas its first four-game sweep in school history. The sweep allowed Cal to keep pace with Oregon State, who is only 1.5 games ahead in the Pac-12 standings. Now, the Bears will be taking on yet another Texas team — Texas Tech (8-5) — to try and take sole possession of first place.
Cal has been on a roll since its loss against Michigan last week. The Bears collectively hit .310 while scoring 24 runs in their sweep of Texas, with five of them coming in the ninth inning of Sunday’s improbable comeback win. Their bats should be able to thrive once again against the Red Raiders’ less-than-stellar starting pitching.
Texas Tech’s starters — who have a combined ERA of 4.34 — will need to stay sharp against the lethal Cal offense. Coming into the series, the Bears are batting a hefty .290/.374/.425 and have only improved since the season first started. In the middle of that dangerous lineup is catcher Brett Cumberland, who has been providing pop, hits, walks and everything in between. With a batting line of .405/.522/.730, Cumberland will most likely add to his team-leading eight walks from careful pitching throughout the four-game set.
Cal third baseman Mitchell Kranson — who hit .368 against Texas — believes that the Bear offense is only getting started.
“I definitely think our offense is taking some big steps forward,” Kranson said. “Texas is known normally for its pitching and I felt like we dealt with their pitching really well — we weren’t trying to do too much with it.”
While pitching has not been the Red Raiders’ strong suit this season, their bats have been holding up the team. Texas Tech has been having a strong offensive season of its own, hitting .296/.391/.431 in 13 games. Sophomore Tanner Gardner, has been putting up numbers just as good as Cumberland’s. In 13 games, Gardner leads the Red Raiders in average and OBP, slashing a line of .400/.520/.550.
Cal’s pitching — which had yet another strong series last weekend — will have its hands full at Evans Diamond. What the pitchers will have going for them, however, is the second game of a scheduled doubleheader Saturday night.
Three hours of baseball is hard enough on a player as it is. Now, the pitchers in the second game will have the luxury of throwing against some already tired starters who will have already played. The two teams will be put to the test to see whose offense is the most resilient.
“It takes a toll on your body, just being out there so long, but the way you got to look at it is one game at a time,” Kranson said. “First worry about the 2 o’clock game and take care of business. It’s a lot easier to play the second game after a good win.”