Cal baseball upperclassmen lead team into Washington State series

Karen Chow /File

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Age is not just a number for the Cal baseball team (14-11). As of late, age has been a predictor for the Bears’ top performers.

Despite the fact that 14 members of its 35-player roster are freshmen, Cal’s few upperclassmen have been proving their skill, particularly at the plate, over the past two weeks of play. In fact, the only four players currently batting over .300 are juniors Andrew Vaughn, Korey Lee, Cameron Eden and Max Flower.

These will be the veterans who are responsible for maintaining the Bears’ energy and consistency going into their weekend home series against the Washington State Cougars (7-20).

Sweeping Long Beach State was a much-needed morale boost for Cal, but it can also have its downsides, especially as it may go too far and incite an inflated sense of self-confidence as the Bears enter a long bout of Pac-12 play.

“We are obviously coming off of a good weekend with Long Beach, but I think it’s more probably about us,” said Cal baseball head coach Mike Neu. “Just us playing our game and staying healthy — I think if we do that, we are in good shape.”

Concretely, the Bears’ consistency can be improved by creating more offensive combinations that lead to RBIs, avoiding errors and keeping the opponent’s on-base percentage low. This last goal is particularly pertinent to Cal, as it has struggled for most of the season to solidify a pitching strategy.

The Cougars have struggled to get off big hits so far this season; the team only has a cumulative seven triples and 12 home runs. Furthermore, the team only has two players batting over .300 in Collin Montez and Andres Alvarez. This means the majority of its offensive action has been generated by capitalizing on small on-base opportunities, which the Bears’ pitching staff will have to work hard to curb.

Cal plans to start junior Arman Sabouri on the mound Friday, following him up with freshman Sam Stoutenborough. On Saturday, junior Jared Horn, who pitched four hitless innings in the Bears’ Friday game against Long Beach, will open. On Sunday, junior Rogelio Reyes will pitch the majority of the game, though no starter has been chosen.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys, and I thought some guys did a really great job (last weekend), so we are still just trying to find a rhythm with our pitching,” Neu said. “Our guys are competing really hard. We have been trying to play for each other and get into a rhythm as a team.”

The Cougar pitchers who fans are most likely to see on the mound this weekend at some point are Hayden Rosenkrantz, Brandon White and A.J. Block, who have all tallied the most innings pitched for Washington State. Each of these pitchers has an ERA hovering slightly above 5.00, which is a bit higher than Cal’s primary pitchers for the weekend, who all have ERAs of about 3.00 or below.

The batting and pitching statistics indicate that Cal enjoys a slight advantage over Washington State both offensively and defensively, but numbers cannot tell the whole story. The Bears’ greatest challenge this weekend will not only be the Cougars but overcoming their younger players’ tendencies toward inconsistency.

Friday, April 5 at 7:05 p.m. PDT on Evans Diamond

Saturday, April 6 at 6:05 p.m. PDT on Evans Diamond

Sunday, April 7 at 1:05 p.m. PDT on Evans Diamond

 

Lucy Schaefer covers baseball. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @lucyjschaefer.