Coming off a scorching-hot homestand, Cal baseball will make its second trip to the desert this season and face Arizona, which has also put together a winning streak in the confines of its Tucson home.
The Bears used their time at Evans Diamond to the best of their abilities, winning each of their six games against Long Beach State and Washington State. Cal dominated in every facet of these series, and the outcome of each game was never really in question.
“Our pitching really stepped up these past two weekends,” said sophomore infielder Sam Wezniak. “That was really good to see in all aspects of the game. The pitching did phenomenal — they really led us the last two weekends. Defense did well, and the offense really picked it up, too.”
Wezniak’s individual performance at the plate stood out among all of Cal’s success — he homered four times in the last four games and upped his OPS to .778 on the season. But Wezniak was quick to point out the symbiotic relationship between team and individual success.
“With the offense, we’ve got one through nine that can all do damage, and I think that helps everybody’s mindset knowing that if you don’t do it, the guy behind is going to pick you up,” Wezniak said. “If the bats don’t pick us up, we know we’re going to have a guy go out on the mound that’s going to compete for us and give us a chance to win a ballgame.”
The Bears have shown that when they play well in all aspects of the game, they can hang with any team in the nation, so they will need to carry their form into Tucson this weekend in order to be successful. The Wildcats have experienced ups and downs this season, but like the Bears, they are trending upward after a sweep of Washington.
Arizona comes into this series featuring one of the most prolific offenses in college baseball. The Wildcats are a top-10 team in batting average, doubles and walks and are ranked in the top five in scoring, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. Led by sophomore Matthew Dyer and freshman Austin Wells, the Wildcats are likely to do some damage against a young Cal pitching staff.
Other facets of the game, however, have been thorns in Arizona’s side all year and kept the team from rising up the Pac-12 standings since conference play began last month. The Wildcats rank 218th in ERA and 257th in fielding percentage.
Despite Arizona’s inconsistencies, heading to Tucson still presents a formidable challenge for the Bears. Arizona is 14-5 at home this season, while only touting a 17-14 overall record.
Wezniak, however, did not seem worried about the Wildcats’ comfort at home.
“It should be a great series, honestly,” Wezniak said. “Reflecting on the year, we’ve played a lot of good games on the road, and I think if we can take the same mindset that we had in those road games, combine what we did at home here, we’ll be in a really good spot moving forward.”
The Bears kick off the series Friday at 6 p.m.
Max Mennemeier covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].