First impressions are everything. A first impression can often last and define the course of a relationship to come.
When the No. 16 Michigan Wolverines came to visit Evans Diamond for a Wednesday matchup with Cal baseball, they made a first impression the Bears won’t soon forget.
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead before the second out of the ballgame was even recorded, Michigan never looked back — notching seven hits and a homer in a 5-0 triumph on the road.
The Bears cycled through eight pitchers to keep up with the offensive onslaught. Starting sophomore lefty Lucas Gather was pulled after he allowed three earned on three hits in his first inning of work.
“You know, we ended up staffing it and some guys came through. We didn’t do it the way we wanted to, but we saved ourselves in a couple of those innings when it probably could’ve gotten a little worse. We kept it in striking distance,” said Cal head coach Mike Neu.
Cal relievers turned in notable performances against the 2019 College World Series runner-up. Sophomore RHP Mitchell Scott recorded two and two-thirds scoreless innings of one-hit ball, while redshirt junior lefty Jack Wolger followed soon thereafter with a shutout, no-hit inning of his own.
Although the Bears’ pitching staff contained the hungry Wolverines in terms of hits to an extent, a lackluster night at the dish made it difficult for Cal to keep itself in the ballgame after falling behind early.
Junior second baseman Darren Baker stood tall in a 3-4 outing at the plate, although he was one of only two members of the blue and gold to log a multi-hit game. Sophomore two-way Grant Holman joined him in this honor after roping an infield single in the ninth.
After his performance marked the fifth out of the last six games with a hit, Baker improved his season batting average to .313 — though he never traveled around the bags, as he was caught stealing amid a matchup that saw the Bears leave nine runners on. Although the blue and gold put two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, it was too little, too late, and they became the final victims of a scoreless night.
Michigan finished two for two with the bases loaded, and this clutch factor, combined with a talented crew of pitchers, solidified the team’s shutout victory.
This was the fourth straight game that the Bears faced an elite staff, and they now have plated just five runs in their last four games combined. Needless to say, they are looking for a spark in their swings.
“We’re trying to find the guys who are going to carry us a bit. We’re trying to find an identity. We’ve been shut out a lot in these last four games, and sometimes when you get in that rut it can be tough,” Neu said. “But hopefully we can break out again this weekend. That’s the great thing about baseball — you get another opportunity right away.”
Cal is now 6-7 all time against Michigan and 0-4 against ranked squads this season. But limiting a team that has already defeated No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 9 Arizona State to seven hits on the evening is a win in its own right, especially as the Bears look forward to the long season ahead.
“It’s where we want to be at the end of the year. Measuring ourselves against a team that was in the College World Series last year — the experience is top notch,” Baker said.
Although the Bears won’t face another nonconference opponent from out of state until May 8 against Gonzaga, they have a full conference schedule ahead to hold them over.
Nonetheless, the Bears will cap their preseason nonconference schedule this week and look to establish their own first impressions as they face the cross-bay USF Dons from Friday to Sunday, with home-field advantage shared between Berkeley and San Francisco.