Rivals Both Headed To Regionals…
By CB360 Contributor Jack Blanchat
The final games of the Pac-10 season for the Cal Bears and the Stanford Cardinal showed two teams that appear to be heading in opposite directions, even though both are headed for the postseason once again.
Stanford once again utilized its great pitching to take the first two games in the series up in Berkeley by scores of 3-2 on Friday and 4-2 on Saturday. The Stanford bats woke up in the third game, part of a Saturday doubleheader, and the boys in red and white were leading 7-1 in the bottom of the fourth when foul weather set in and ended the game for good.
With the series victory, Stanford finished the season on a high note by beating two top-25 Pac-10 teams in back to back weeks (Arizona and Cal). Cal, on the other hand, hobbled across the finish line with three consecutive series losses in the Pac-10, albeit against three of the better teams in the conference (Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford).
Once again, pitchers Mark Appel, Jordan Pries and Chris Reed all pitched very well, and for the second week in a row, the Cardinal didn’t need much offense to have a winning weekend.
Appel went seven and one-third innings while only giving up one earned run and walking nobody in Friday’s 3-2 win. Reed gave up a hit and a walk, but he closed out the final one and two-thirds innings with the game on the line to seal the victory, which helped Appel’s record to 5-6 and earned Reed his seventh save of the year.
The story was the same in the first game of the scheduled doubleheader on Saturday, but this time Pries was the winner, as he went seven and one-third innings, giving up two unearned runs, one walk and just six hits. Reed closed out the game after he came in during the 8th with a 4-2 lead, runners on the corners and one out. Reed got a fielder’s choice groundout on a dramatic play at the plate and a flyout to rightfield to squash the Bears’ rally, and got a double play in the ninth to end the game.
Despite the losses, Cal’s pitching staff did well over the weekend also, with Erik Johnson striking out 11 Stanford hitters in Friday’s game, and Justin Jones settling down after giving up four runs in the first four innings to finish eight full innings with the Bears down just 4-2 before Reed closed things out for the Cardinal.
Despite the Bears’ solid arms, the offense is a major concern for the boys in blue and gold. Cal has scored just 33 runs in its last 14 Pac-10 games, an average of just 2.3 runs a game. They have been facing off against some excellent teams in that time span – Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford – but the offensive struggles will most likely mean an early exit for the Bears unless they can turn things around in the batting cages before the NCAA regionals.
Stanford’s offense didn’t score a ton of runs either – just enough to get the victories – but a couple key cogs in the Cardinal offense had good weekend. Sophomore Tyler Gaffney extended his hitting streak to 17 games this weekend with consecutive 2-for-4, one run, one RBI days at the plate. Fellow sophomore Stephen Piscotty went 2-for-4 with an RBI on Saturday and had a double, a single, and a walk in the second half of the doubleheader before the game was called due to rain.
Senior catcher Zach Jones went 3-for-5 on Saturday and scored three runs in two games (he also had a double and a single in the rainout game) to raise his batting average to .268 this year. This was a particularly impressive feat because Jones was hitting .130 through 16 games, but Jones has finished the regular season by hitting .323 in the last 36 games, and he leads the team in extra-base hits with 31.
Both these teams will be interesting to watch in the regionals – the Pac-10 has been strong this year, and the Cardinal and the Bears both have some nice pieces going into the postseason, both teams have a tough draw with Stanford heading down to Cal State Fullerton and Cal traveling to Rice, but with a little bit of luck, and the offense,
defense and pitching to syncing up, the Bay Area rivals could find themselves advancing to a Super Regional.
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