The Huskies attempted. The Mustangs tried twice. But it was only the rain that proved a formidable opponent against the flaming hot Bears during the cold and wet weekend.
Cal rode fantastic pitching and a couple clutch hits to another three wins across Friday and Saturday, before stormy weather on Sunday forced a rain-out after three innings of play. The weekend sweep brought the Bears’ record to a sightly 6-1, the best start in Berkeley since 2011, when they last made the College World Series.
“We came out prepared to play,” said head coach Mike Neu. “We lost some guys to the draft, but we’ve had some guys really step up.”
In what could have been mistaken for last week’s recycled highlights — had he not traded out his gray uniform for pinstripes — sophomore Ian May tossed another scoreless outing, limiting Cal Poly to just five scattered hits across six innings of work. May has still yet to allow a leadoff hitter to reach base in his 14 innings.
Yet the blue and gold bats were also stymied by the cold; the two teams had traded unearned runs in the sixth and seventh — Cal’s courtesy of an RBI single by sophomore Peyton Schulze.
Tied 1-1 in the bottom of the eighth, the stage was set for some late-game theatrics. Fifth-year senior Dom Souto rose to the occasion, blasting the first pitch he saw onto the roof of the RSF to lead off the eighth.
Souto, who recorded four hits across the weekend, was a pivotal force in the nine-hole of head coach Mike Neu’s lineup, providing support for the top half of the lineup, which had a quieter-than-usual weekend.
Though not as dominant as usual, it was Rodney Green Jr. who delivered the knock-out punch in the first end of Saturday’s doubleheader with a two-run homer in the fifth. The Cal bullpen would keep UConn to just two runs, making Green’s two RBI’s the difference in the 4-2 win.
The Bears finally found some room to breathe in Saturday’s nightcap, jumping out to an early lead en route to a 7-3 victory over Cal Poly. Not to be outdone by his fellow sophomores, Tucker Bougie threw an absolute gem, tossing seven innings, giving up just three hits and striking out six.
At the plate, two home runs — a moonshot from Jack Johnston and a screaming liner from Carson Crawford — provided the bulk of the run production. With the early offense and strong pitching throughout the weekend, Cal never trailed across the three games; in fact, it led in 17 of the 21 innings.
“(The sophomores) are in bigger roles and early on have done a really nice job,” said Neu. “Now they feel like they can play with more confidence; understand that ‘hey I can just go out there and play my game’.”
The Bears have managed to put together complete performances both on the mound and at the plate, a feat the team has struggled with in recent years. The 6-1 record shows the turnaround on paper, but the energy in the locker room might be an even better indicator of Cal’s early success.
“It’s been helping that we communicate a lot more than last year,” said sophomore standout Caleb Lomavita. “Being on the guys about everything, like staying consistent with the work they do.”
The rain also took Cal’s Tuesday game versus neighboring UC Davis, who would have come into Berkeley with a 3-3 record. Though a lost opportunity to pick up their fifth straight win, the Bears will gladly take a few off days after playing 7 ⅓ (counting Sunday’s rainout) games in 10 days.
The team will instead turn its attention to the Frisco Classic, in which the Bears will take on perennial powers Oklahoma, Mississippi State, and Ohio State.