Cal baseball’s hot offense to face Brown’s revamped pitching staff

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Fresh off a 13-3 thrashing of Xavier in its first midweek game of the season, Cal baseball will host Brown this weekend in an East Coast versus West Coast version of the Battle of the Bears.

Brown has only played four games this season, but it garnered some buzz around the Ivy League by taking three of four from Florida A&M this past weekend.

The Bears flashed their collective promise on the mound this past weekend, allowing only seven earned runs over the four games.

Despite a constant rotation of new faces, Brown has gradually improved on the mound over the past three seasons.

After registering an ugly ERA of 7.14 in 2015, the team has made significant strides on the mound, getting that number down to 4.35 last season. Its ERA this season currently sits at 1.91, and another improvement may be on the horizon.

Tasked with leading that charge will likely be freshman Collin Garner, Brown’s No. 2 starter who was awarded Ivy League Rookie of the Week after throwing six innings of one-run ball in his collegiate debut — a 9-1 win.

Garner and company will be tasked with stopping the Pac-12’s hottest offense.

As a unit, Cal is hitting .348 and is averaging 9.5 runs per game, both of which lead the conference.

At the forefront of the Bears’ potent offensive attack is none other than sophomore Andrew Vaughn, who is in early contention for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Vaughn sits at the top of the leaderboards of every major offensive category for Cal, but the most impressive figure lies in the long ball department.

The sophomore, who ended last season with 12 total home runs, has already amassed seven long balls with three multi-home-run games mixed in for good measure. Last season, Vaughn wouldn’t go deep for the seventh time until Cal’s 22nd game in late March.

Touching the double-digit mark in home runs is a rarity in and of itself, but no Pac-12 player has touched the 20-home-run mark since USC alumnus Ricky Oropesa accomplished the feat back in 2010. With 43 games still remaining, Vaughn has set himself up very nicely in the early going to make some history.

For all of Cal’s fireworks on offense, the pitching staff remains a work in progress, as its collective ERA currently sits at 4.41 on the season — the third-worst mark in the Pac-12.

While the offense has masked the team’s shortcomings on the mound, trying to outslug every team is an unsustainable model for success. Against Louisiana Tech and Texas A&M, Cal put up six and five runs, respectively, but it was unable to walk away with wins as the pitching staff allowed a combined 19 earned runs.

In addition to the usual starting pitchers, the Bears will have one more slot to fill this weekend by virtue of this being a four-game series. Against CSU Bakersfield, head coach Mike Neu started sophomore Rogelio Reyes, who allowed one run over six innings in his first win of the season.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510