After yet another series loss last weekend, the No. 24 Cal baseball team (24-16, 10-11 Pac-12) appears to be in the same shape as boxer Rocky Balboa in “Rocky III.” In the film’s final scene, Clubber Lang gives Balboa the beating of his lifetime. Bruised and bloodied, he barely manages to stay standing as Lang lands blow after blow to his face and body.
But as Balboa’s trainer Paulie noted of the determination in Balboa’s eye inside the ring, “He ain’t getting killed, he’s gettin’ mad.” Balboa used his pent-up anger from the beating to make a late-round surge to defeat Lang and regain his championship.
The time is now for the Bears to make a late surge of their own and not leave anything on the field during their upcoming series against Stanford (20-18, 8-10) this weekend in Palo Alto. To keep their playoff hopes alive, they must show their resilience on the field — they must show their Eye of the Tiger.
“This Stanford series couldn’t come at a better time,” said Cal third baseman Mitchell Kranson. “We’ve got to be hungry and play with our backs against the wall because they pretty much are.”
Although the Cardinal’s record in itself is not extremely impressive, the Bears cannot afford to take the team lightly. Cal has dropped nine of its last 13 games against conference opponents and has gone from first place in the Pac-12 to eighth in a little over a month.
But what Cal does have going for it is the fact that Stanford has also been struggling as of late. Since their last meeting April 19, the Cardinal has gone 2-6 while giving up 44 total runs. All of its losses have been close, however, as Stanford has only conceded eight more runs than it has scored during that eight game period.
Cal’s run differential during that same stretch also suggests that the Bears have been playing better than their record suggests, scoring 29 runs while allowing 31. Second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz has been single-handedly keeping the Bears’ offense afloat, batting .400 (12-for-30) with 12 RBI. Outfielder Brian Celsi has also heated up as of late, collecting eight hits in 25 at-bats (.320 AVG).
The Bears will also be given the opportunity to face Stanford with their entire weekend rotation instead of a Tuesday spot starter as they have rolled with in their last two meetings. Although Daulton Jefferies will not pitch this weekend, Cal starting pitching has remained sturdy in his absence.
With solid pitching and an offense that is still remaining competitive, this weekend could be the moment when Cal finally puts everything together to finish the season strong. But if the Bears manage to defeat their Langs of the regular season, they will need to continue playing top-notch ball in order to beat the Ivan Dragos and Tommy Gunns of the postseason.
“We’re really close to breaking out of this thing. We’re gonna be a tough team to play once we break out of this,” Kranson said. “We saw how we played last year with our season on the line. We played some of our best baseball at the end of the season last year, and so I think if we can get back to that mentality, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”