Bears hopeful with Oregon, San Jose State next at bat

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“It’s been frustrating at times,” said head coach Mike Neu. “At the end of the day, we got to win.”

Calling this Cal baseball squad frustrating is arguably one of the year’s greatest understatements. It’s a team racked with talent — like Dylan Beavers, Keshawn Ogans and Joseph King — yet incapable of making big strides. What may be even more dumbfounding is that the Bears struggle to surpass the .500 point.  

Even worse than their even 20-20 overall record, though, is that the blue and gold are 10-11 in the Pac-12 — a record that has them currently sitting in eighth place. As it stands, the Bears would narrowly escape elimination from the inaugural Pac-12 tournament. Any hopes of postseason play can only be kept alive by strong performances across the board in these final four weeks. 

“We have to keep that goal in mind,” Neu said. “We have a dangerous enough team to where, if we get hot, we can do really well.”

Indeed, the Bears can be a dangerous team.  But they will be put to the test once again when they take on Oregon this weekend. Currently fifth in the Pac-12 standings, the Ducks will make the Bears work hard for their victories in the upcoming series. 

Fortunately for Cal, it won’t be going into enemy territory completely disadvantaged — the Ducks come into the series off a three-game losing streak. Heading to Eugene after their latest win over Pacific, and a notable series-opening victory over No. 13 UCLA, this is the perfect time for the Bears to bring the heat and roast the Ducks. 

Remarkably, the Ducks and the Bears couldn’t be more different. One sits near the top of the conference standings, while the other is near the bottom; One is strong as a team but lacks individual stars, while the other has standout individuals that often struggle as a collective unit.

Regardless of this weekend’s results, the Bears will catch some reprieve in Tuesday’s midweek matchup against Bay Area neighbor San Jose State. Just because the Pac-12 tournament won’t be at risk, however, doesn’t mean that the Bears should let up. 

“That’s been our achilles heel this year,” Neu said about midweek games.

Of the ten midweek contests played thus far, Cal has dropped five — four of which were well within reach. In the context of the 40 games played this season, this may not seem all too significant. But the Bears have gone on to lose the subsequent series 1-2 after each of those five losses — proof of the impact midweek games have upon the team’s morale and ensuing performance.

Working both for and against the Bears is the fact that they earned a whopping 17-5 victory over the Spartans earlier this year. Clear confidence boosts for incoming games, however, can cause overconfidence in a team that struggles to perform against weaker opposition and has yet to find that elusive home-field advantage.

The blue and gold’s lone star, Beavers, is one to watch as he has been recently relishing in the pressure. The junior outfielder consistently hits big, lifting him up in the ranks of Cal baseball history. After last weekend’s performance, Beavers sits just outside the top five of the Bears’ all-time home run leaders. 

Between the two squads Cal will face in the coming days, only one player comes close to Beavers statistically: San Jose State’s Hunter Dorraugh. Like Beavers, the redshirt sophomore leads his team in slugging percentage, home runs and runs.

Regardless of standings and speculation, Neu’s faith in his squad remains unwavering. It will all be futile, however, if the blue and gold can’t combine their individual talents to pull off team victories as the season winds down.

Amber Soto covers baseball. Contact her at [email protected].