Walk-off magic, two sobering defeats and ruthless Spartan destruction — Cal baseball’s rollercoaster of a season continues.
The Bears opened their weekend series against No. 16 Arizona with a miraculous walk-off win. After holding a 2-0 lead for three innings, the Wildcats surged past Cal to take an 8-5 lead entering the bottom of the ninth. But Cal’s opportunistic base runners took full advantage of their opponent’s total defensive meltdown — the Bears scored four runs from three wild pitches and a passed ball to snatch the win from Arizona’s clutches. Freshman outfielder Rodney Green Jr. slid into home base to score the winning run.
Thereafter, Arizona tightened some screws and brought Cal back down to earth in the remaining games of the series. The Bears were beaten handily 4-10 and 5-13 in the second and third legs.
Following their weekend series against Arizona, the Bears traveled to the South Bay on Tuesday, March 15 to face off against San Jose State. Cal’s bats immediately caught fire, and the Bears rounded the bases 17 times, thanks to an excellent individual batting performance from freshman catcher Caleb Lomavita. Lomavita batted in five runs, including a grand slam, and scored three of his own. Of the Bears’ 17 runs, he contributed to seven.
The San Jose State game marked the second time this season that the Bears have reached double-digit runs. Now, Cal’s eyes will turn to USC and Cal Poly as another busy week lies ahead.
Cal will play its second conference series of the season this weekend against the Trojans. USC, which sits at third in the Pac-12 standings, has an 11-4 record. But the Bears, 8-8, boast a 4-4 record against ranked teams. Meanwhile, USC is yet to play against a team in the NCAA Top 25.
Following its series in the city of angels, Cal will make its way up to San Luis Obispo to play Cal Poly. The Mustangs, who are 7-9 and unranked, have not impressed this season as a team; they lost 1-3 to San Jose State on March 8, which the Bears blew out at the beginning of this week.
But the Mustangs’ star shortstop Brooks Lee, who is ranked No. 1 on MLB.com’s list of best college draft prospects for the 2022 draft, will likely pose a significant problem for the Bears. Lee batted in two runs in Cal Poly’s last game against Harvard on March 13.
Cal Poly and USC are pivotal games in the Bears’ season and will reveal a lot about the ultimate direction of their 2022 campaign. It is the story of their season so far: If the Bears can more regularly harness and reproduce their performances in their toughest games, they’ll see a submarine rise toward the top of the standings.
“We want to put our pitching staff in the best situation to have success and give us a chance to win,” said head coach Mike Neu. “That’s going to be at the top of the game plan, and then as we get into the scouting report, we’ll look for matchups offensively that are favorable with our lineup.”
Sixteen games into the season, Neu is in control; he understands the Bears’ strengths and plans to fine tune accordingly with small, gradual adjustments. The weekend series against USC will be available for live streaming on usctrojans.com, and Cal’s Monday matchup against Cal Poly will be shown on Cal Live Stream-2.
Colin Mequet covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].