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No. 18 Cal baseball readies to face Arizona in 3-game series

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APRIL 22, 2016

Another home game, another win.

That was the case for the No. 18 Cal baseball team (22-11, 9-6 Pac-12) Tuesday, after it beat Stanford, 5-2, and bettered its outstanding home record to 13-3. The Bears hope to keep the home magic going, facing Arizona (23-14, 7-8) this weekend at Evans Diamond.

Cal head coach David Esquer reordered most of his lineup for Tuesday’s matchup against Stanford to give third baseman Mitchell Kranson — one of Cal’s hottest hitters — more high leverage situations at the plate. Although the lineup scored five times against the Cardinal, more changes are likely to come against the Wildcats.

“For now, I think we get some other guys going,” Esquer said. “(The lineup) probably is kind of fluid and will change again. We need to give (Kranson) more opportunities to drive in some runs and some free at bats.”

Cal ace Daulton Jefferies will miss another start this weekend and, subsequently, a weekend or two after that. It was revealed by Esquer on Tuesday that what originally began as leg tightness turned into shoulder soreness, specifically in the subscapular area. Although he is cleared to throw and has been throwing on flat ground, the Bears will play it safe with Jefferies and say they will only allow him to start when he feels ready to go.

In the meantime, Jefferies’ absence is continuing to strain Cal’s bullpen. While he’s shown promise as the Bears’ interim Saturday starter, the absence of sophomore Jeff Bain as a multiple-inning reliever has been putting a toll on pitchers who are not used to long outings. But reinforcements are on the way.

“We’ll get a shot in the arm,” Esquer said. “(Alex) Schick looks like he’ll be back, not this weekend but definitely by next weekend. That takes a little heat off of the (Eric) Martinezes and (Keaton) Siomkins of the world because now you have another option at the back end.”

Schick — who has yet to pitch in 2016 because of a knee injury — went 3-2 in 2015 with a 4.21 ERA in 2015, recording 46 strikeouts in 36.1 innings.

Until then, the likes of Martinez and Siomkin will need to be ready to pitch this weekend if the potent Arizona offense knocks out Cal’s starters early. The Wildcat bats boast a .293/.388/.414 triple slash, with middle infielder Cody Ramer getting the action started as their leadoff hitter. The speedy Ramer has legged out five triples and 11 doubles so far this season while swiping five bases.

Luckily for Cal, Arizona’s starting third baseman Bobby Dalbec — Baseball America’s No. 62 prospect going into the 2016 season — is in a major slump. Since March 24, Dalbec is hitting .164 with no home runs and only four RBI. The Bears hope that he continues this trend and they won’t have to see 2015’s Dalbec — who hit .319 with 15 home runs — during this series.

After this series, Cal has one more series at home before it goes back on the road. Taking into account the Bears’ mediocre road record, the team is going to have to perfect their pitching situation and rack up as many home wins as possible to ensure they stay competitive late in the season.

Chris Tril covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSportsNet.

APRIL 22, 2016

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