Cal baseball opens up Pac-12 play vs. Oregon

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When sophomore starting pitcher Tanner Dodson last stepped on the mound, he showed his perseverance, pitching five innings against Pepperdine and only allowing two earned runs off 10 hits. It was a moment he really needed, picking up his first win of the year after losing his first three starts.

This weekend he’ll need to be at the top of his game once again, as the Bears (8-7) will open Pac-12 competition by welcoming Oregon (11-4) to Evans Diamond. The Bears will enter the series with plenty of expectations, as they’ll be attempting to acquire their sixth-straight victory.

“Each opponent is so different for us, so this weekend’s going to be a huge challenge,” said Cal head coach David Esquer. “There isn’t one weekend off in the Pac-12 this year, and they’re all going to be tough.”

The Ducks will be opening this series with a win streak of their own, looking for a seventh-straight win. Oregon dominated Santa Clara the last time it was on the field, with the bullpen only allowing three runs throughout the entire four-game series.

Ducks sophomore starting pitcher Cole Stringer pitched one of the best games of his career in the final game of the series last Sunday. He picked up his second win of the season by only allowing four hits and zero earned runs in 5.2 innings. With two outs in the top of the third, and a runner on second, Stringer showed his composure by forcing an inning-ending ground out.

Cal will also enter the weekend attempting to carry over its great performance from its last home outing against Minnesota. Freshman starting pitcher Rogelio Reyes led the Bears by giving up only one earned run off two hits.

After five innings, he handed the ball to fellow freshman Arman Sabouri, who was able to end the sixth inning off a double play.

Junior Zayne Patino and freshman Andrew Vaughn followed in suit by pitching an inning apiece and allowing no earned runs. The Cal bullpen will have no problem getting through the Ducks if it can carry over the consistency from this 7-1 victory.

And luckily for the Bears’ bullpen, production at the plate last Tuesday wasn’t hard to come by. Sophomore Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. continued his productive season by tying the score up in the bottom of the third, doubling down the right field line and bringing in freshman Cameron Eden. The Bears were easily able to score two more runs, after RBI at bats from both junior Denis Karas and Dodson brought the lead to 3-1.

Cal will have plenty more power at the plate in this home series. Vaughn has also produced this season, leading the Bears in hits this year with 23 and attaining a .343 batting average. Mitchell Jr. and sophomore Jonah Davis have also had strong at-bats with batting averages of .311 and .300, respectively.

There’s no doubt that Cal will need to play its best this weekend if it wants to get past Oregon and continue the winning streak.

“All of the Pac-12 is going to be equally as tough, especially for this young team where it’s just going to keep coming at them,” Esquer said.

Alex Quintana covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].