Just as Cal baseball has surged in conference play, it now faces a change in the regularly scheduled programming of April Pac-12 play to take on St. Mary’s in Moraga, California, for a one-game affair.
The Bears (15-14) initially looked overwhelmed against conference opponents, going 1-5 in series against Oregon and UCLA and dropping one particularly embarrassing game to the Bruins by a score of 20-0. But after going 6-0 in home series against Washington State and Arizona State, the incredibly young Cal roster has shown it can legitimately contend with its West Coast peers. Now, against the Gaels (20-11), the team will have a chance to show if it can pull it off on the road.
“It’s all a learning process of us playing, and we’re going to have to be good on the road,” said Cal head coach David Esquer. “It’s been easier for us at home, so we’ll know how we’re maturing when we can play some good ball games on the road.”
Last weekend’s series against Arizona State showed how much many of Cal’s young players have grown in the season. Freshman Jared Horn had one of his best starts of the season on Friday night, and freshman first baseman Andrew Vaughn continued his excellent season at the plate. Unfortunately for the Bears, the pitcher they’ll be starting Tuesday is Rogelio Reyes, one of the few freshman who has not yet shown many signs of improvement.
Reyes sits at a 6.43 ERA and fared poorly in his last two appearances, which came against Stanford and Arizona State. He allows his opponents a .231 batting average, which isn’t bad at all. His problems largely stem from a lack of control; he has walked 16 batters in 21 innings of work. He strikes out more batters than the usual Bear, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio is the worst of any Cal player with more than 15 innings of work on the season. A large portion of the Bears’ success last weekend came because their three starters (Horn, sophomore Joey Matulovich and junior Matt Ladrech) only walked one batter combined. Reyes will need to find the strike zone more effectively to keep the ball rolling.
St. Mary’s will send sophomore Ty Madrigal out to start. The lefty has started four games this season and made seven appearances out of the bullpen, racking up a 4.45 ERA and 9.79 strikeouts per nine innings along the way. He’s second in strikeouts on the staff, despite only ranking fifth in innings pitched.
Although it’s just a scant 13 miles from the Gaels’ Dickson Stadium to the Bears’ Evans Diamond, the programs are unfamiliar foes. The teams have met just once in the past 10 years, and that matchup came at a neutral site.
Altogether, this matchup should offer a perfect warmup for Cal’s road-heavy schedule ahead. If the Bears show they can deal with an unfamiliar stadium and foe without even throwing one of their top arms out on the mound, they should be feeling confident for the rest of the season ahead.
Andrew Wild covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]