There are few things in life better than being young and in Malibu at the same time. One of those few superiorly blissful states is to be young, in Malibu and playing baseball, simultaneously. This weekend, when it takes on Pepperdine for three games, Cal men’s baseball will be living that dream.
The Bears have not made it easy to paint a clear picture of their season so far. They seemed doomed coming into the season, returning only one regular starter from the year before and, accordingly, relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores. A season-opening loss against Cal Poly seemed to confirm that feeling, but Cal responded with two impressive wins against the Mustangs.
Looking like a team that could do damage, the Bears went right back to appearing like chumps after an ugly four-game sweep by No. 6 Texas Tech. Then, right back to the yoyo, they lost their first game against Gonzaga in last weekend’s series before storming back from a 6-0 deficit in game two for a win and splitting games three and four.
This is all a big way of saying, whatever you’re expecting the Bears to do by the beach this weekend — don’t.
“One thing I can expect, is that despite the lack of experience, guys are really showing up fairly often,” said Cal head coach David Esquer.
Pepperdine is coming off of a single game against Fresno State on Tuesday that was called at 6-6 in the 11th inning because of darkness. Poets will tell you the light of the moon bouncing off the Pacific Ocean makes night seem like day. The umpires at Tuesday’s game begged to differ.
The Waves are a decent, if uninspiring, 10 games over .500 over the past three seasons, but that record doesn’t tell the full story of their performance. They are 39-22 at home over that same span, with a formidable .640 record and 3-0 in the Pacific Coast Highway-adjacent confines this season.
Cal would be wise to watch out for senior Pepperdine outfielder Matt Gelalich, who is hitting .379 with a 1.093 OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) in his eight games this season. He has two home runs on the season but has struck out in more than a third of his at bats this season, so his all-or-nothing approach can be stopped. But then again, the Bears only strike out a fairly low 6.14 batters per nine innings, so don’t expect Cal to ring up too many Ks.
Some Waves pitchers have struggled with control this season, walking a relatively high number of batters. But once again, Cal is not the team to take advantage of that flaw. Cal’s leaders in at bats this season, sophomore Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. and freshman Andrew Vaughn, have incredibly not yet taken a walk this season. Sophomore Tyrus Greene and junior Denis Karas both take walks in less than 10 percent of their appearances as well. Patience has yet to be a virtue for these Bears.
“It would be great to have patience,” Esquer said. “Up and down our lineup we have a lack of experience with having to battle back in counts. It’s indicative of young hitters, and we have a lot of them.”