Cal men’s baseball looks to take care of business against Sacramento State

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The beauty of baseball is that any team on any given day has a legitimate shot to win. With strong pitching, timely hitting and stellar defense, every team has a reasonable chance to get the job done and take care of business. For the Cal baseball team, this has been the recent recipe for success as the squad has won four consecutive series against conference foes.

In a midweek matchup Tuesday against Sacramento State, the Bears will aim to continue to utilize their winning formula and take care of the Hornets at home at Evans Diamond.

The Hornets, the defending 2017 WAC tournament champions, enter this game once again playing strong baseball. Thus far, Sacramento State is holding down second place in the conference, one game behind Grand Canyon University. As in previous campaigns, the Hornets boast a potent offense.

Sacramento State is led by senior Ian Dawkins, who is batting .311 on the season and was an All-WAC first teamer last season. Dawkins comes into this matchup against Cal with a hot bat, accentuated by three multi-hit games in a row.

Another cog in the Hornets’ lineup that Cal will have to be wary about is freshman Steven Moretto. The Canada native leads the team with 30 RBIs and has put together a very nice freshman campaign.

If history is any indicator, Sacramento State will likely use a combination of different pitchers to get through this midweek affair. Freshman Travis Martizia, who received his first career collegiate start last week against UC Davis, will likely see some action tomorrow against the Bears.

It will be imperative that Cal takes advantage of Sacramento State’s weaker pitching staff in this matchup.

All eyes will be on sophomore and Golden Spikes midseason watch list candidate Andrew Vaughn, who has continued his explosive offensive onslaught. This past weekend, Vaughn added three more home runs to take his total count up to 18 on the year, the second most in the entire country.

While Vaughn has been leading the charge on the offensive side of things, Cal has been supported by an elite starting pitching rotation. Senior Matt Ladrech, junior Aaron Shortridge and sophomore Jared Horn have formed a formidable staff that has given opponents fits at the plate.

If there’s one area where Cal features a weakness, it’s in the department of relief pitching. But aside from the bullpen throwing away a gem of a performance from Shortridge on Sunday against Washington, relief pitching has drastically improved from the beginning of the season. Although Cal baseball head coach Mike Neu continues to tinker with his use of the bullpen, the objective remains the same — finding the best combination out of the pen that yields wins down the stretch of games.

Overall, Cal has been a team on the rise in the Pac-12. Currently, the Bears sit in a tie for fifth place and have a couple more opportunities to climb up the rankings. For now, however, Cal’s focus will be on its midweek non-conference opponent. If the Bears continue to follow their winning formula, there’s no saying how far this team can go.

Praveen Kuruppu covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].