To many a Cal student’s dismay, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom is a discouraging 25-mile drive from Berkeley. Though it may be the nearest theme park, there is a fun ride much closer to home at Berkeley’s Evans Diamond — the rollercoaster that is Cal baseball’s season.
Following a heartbreaking sweep at the hand of cross-bay rival Stanford this past weekend, the Bears got back on the track with two resounding midweek victories — 14-2 over Nevada and 9-3 over Saint Mary’s.
Cal now boasts an 11-3 nonconference record, a sign of a solid club, if not for the nearly completely opposite 3-12 conference record.
The blue and gold scored early and often in their bludgeoning of the visiting Wolf Pack on Monday. Just four Bears recorded RBIs, but the eight hits and 12 RBIs from the bats of Carson Crawford, Rodney Green Jr., Kade Kretzschmar and Peyton Shulze were more than enough to propel Cal to a win.
Though the offensive onslaught was a welcome sight after a tough weekend, Cal in fact needed very little run support thanks to Andres Galan’s gem on the mound. The sophomore righty tossed six shutout innings, giving up just four hits and striking out a career-high nine batters. Over his last two starts, Galan has allowed just one earned run over 12 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.37.
Tuesday was more of the same story, as the Bears once again rode Green Jr. and Kretzschmar’s big days at the plate to a dominant win over their East Bay foes. The pair of lefties got the scoring going for Cal in the third with back-to-back homers — Green Jr.’s being a three-run dong. Green would go on to add a RBI triple and another two-run homer to complete his three-hit, six-RBI day.
Junior Max Handron also added three hits and scored thrice out of the leadoff spot, a new role for the junior college transfer who is hitting .286 in his last nine games.
Former weekend starter Tucker Bougie got the start looking to straighten out some recent struggles, throwing four innings and giving up two runs while earning the win. But it was the bullpen — which struggled mightily over the weekend against Stanford — that was lights out, allowing just three hits over its five innings of work.
Though Cal played as effectively and balanced as it has all year, the real challenge now comes in maintaining its solid play. This is just the first time Cal has won two games in a row since the second week of this up-and-down season.
The only thing standing between the Bears and a sustained win streak are the Utah Utes (12-19-1, 3-11-1), who join Cal in the basement of the Pac-12 standings. Separated in the conference standings by just a tie, both teams will be looking to gain some momentum as they head into the backend of Pac-12 play.
Like the visiting Bears, Utah has struggled mightily at the plate this year, hitting just .248 and a conference-low 22 home runs (Cal is by far the worst Pac-12 squad in terms of batting average at .228). But while Cal sits in the top half of the conference in ERA, Utah also boasts the worst Pac-12 squad on the mound, highlighting poor play on both sides of the ball.
The Bears have a real opportunity this weekend to gain some confidence with their first conference series win of the year — to stay on the top of the rollercoaster. With just six weekends left in the season, Cal needs to start winning, and winning fast, if it wants any chance of sniffing the postseason in 2023.