After a three-game sweep of Pepperdine in sunny southern California, the Cal baseball team (7-7) is anything but cold. Unfortunately, that means there can’t be a “cold like Minnesota” reference to start off this preview.
Despite the lack of a Lil Yachty-esque angle to give this upcoming matchup between the Bears and Minnesota (9-6), there is still much much to say about a young Cal squad completing its first sweep of the season en route to its first mid-week matchup of 2017.
Cal rode the high of decimating the Waves, 12-7, during game one of the series by taking games two and three as well. Although the offense slowed down in the latter two games, pitching thrived, as freshman Jared Horn tossed a five-hitter in 6.2 innings and sophomore Joey Matulovich threw a complete game on 109 pitches. Closer Erik Martinez added to the pitching frenzy with a rare three-inning save, striking out four in two and a third on Saturday.
But still, the last time the Bears ended a weekend on a win streak, they were swept by Texas Tech in four games. So the team will have to avoid flying too close to the sun and enter Tuesday’s matchup knowing not keeping their energy level high can have disastrous potential.
“We’ll see if this (past) weekend gives us momentum heading into the next game, but we still need to prepare for the work ahead of us,” said Cal head coach David Esquer.
Minnesota is coming off a 13-game homestand, last playing on the road on February 24. While the Gophers’ bats are making contact early in the season– the team has an overall batting average of .281 — they are not yet connecting for the long ball. Minnesota has only six home runs on the year, with the two team leaders in dingers only having two-apiece.
On the flip-side, the Bears have gone yard 11 times in 14 games, with freshman Andrew Vaughn raking in three of them. With the added homers comes a wider margin between the two team’s slugging percentage, Cal currently with a 12 point advantage. The Bear bats will also have the added advantage of facing Minnesota pitching on Tuesday, which is tossing a pedestrian 4.63 ERA with just over six strikeouts per game.
Squaring up against some more hittable pitchers might help serve as a boost for some Bears who have been struggling as of late. After starting the season’s first seven games hitting .350, freshman Anthony Walters’ bat has started to become one-dimensional as nine of his 11 hits have been singles. While he’s not going to slug .500 with 30 home runs, Walters needs to work on gap hitting and utilizing his speed to not only leg out singles, but also doubles and triples.
The Gophers are a long ways from Minnesota, where the temperature is currently hovering between “literally below freezing” and “oh my God, it’s literally below freezing”. With Tuesday’s game time Berkeley weather looking to start in the comfortable 60s, and with the Bears’ current competitiveness on the field, then the Gophers might need to up off the streets if they can’t take the heat. There it is.
Chris Tril is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].