Cal Preview

The 11th ranked Cardinal baseball team returns to action this weekend with a non-conference series against the Cal Golden Bears. Stanford is coming off a series win over USC while Cal is one of the hottest teams in the country. The Bears were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference this season, but have won nine in a row and are looking to make a statement this weekend.

California (10-4)  at  #11 Stanford (9-6)

 
Friday - 5:00pm
Saturday - 1:00pm
Sunday - 1:00pm

The Stanford Cardinal get set for their final series before a 13 day break for exams when they host the California Golden Bears at Sunken Diamond.  The Cardinal are coming off a 2-of-3 series win over 23rd ranked USC last weekend taking the first two games, 6-0 and 4-3 before falling by an 8-2 score in the finale.  The games this weekend against Cal will not count in the conference standings.

The Bears are one of the hottest teams in the country as they bring a nine-game winning streak into play this weekend.  Included in the streak are series sweeps over Long Beach State and Saint Mary's along with a win over USF earlier this week.  Cal was picked in all of the preseason polls to finish in the bottom half of the conference and thus miss the NCAA Tournament, but this young team is playing well and showing that they just might be for real.


PROBABLE STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday: California- Adam Gold (RHP; 1-1, 6.08)  vs.  Stanford- Mark Romanczuk (3-2, 3.26)

Saturday: California- Eric Dworkis (RHP; 1-1, 4.32)  vs.  Stanford- Jeff Gilmore (2-1, 2.86)

Sunday: California- TBA  vs.  Stanford- Nolan Gallagher (0-2, 2.55)


STANFORD NOTES

A few weeks ago, this weekend could have been classified as a "lock" for a series victory on paper.  But the recent strong play of the Bears means Stanford is likely in store for another hard-fought battle.  The Cardinal have already played three series' this season against ranked opponents dropping 2-of-3 at #4 Cal State Fullerton and getting swept at #2 Texas.  Last weekend, Stanford took 2-of-3 from #23 USC who showed signs that they are returning to their old form of a few years ago.  Now the Bears are in town as the Cardinal play their final games before taking two weeks off for final exams.

Last weekend, Stanford received two excellent starting pitching performances from juniors Mark Romanczuk and Jeff Gilmore.  Romanczuk came through with the best start of his Cardinal career tossing a complete-game shutout with just four hits allowed, two walks, and 12 strike outs.  Romanczuk was on the attack all game and the Trojans could do very little about it.  Meanwhile, Gilmore had a shorter outing the next day, but still threw very well with just one run and three hits allowed in five innings.  Overall, Romanczuk (3.26 ERA, .229 opponents average) and Gilmore (2.86 ERA, .208 opponents average) have posted very solid numbers this season.

Nolan Gallagher endured his first rough start last Sunday although he didn't get much of a chance to pitch through it with Coach Marquess utilizing a quick hook.  Gallagher surrendered two runs on four hits in 2 1/3 innings in Stanford's 8-2 defeat.  The freshman displayed excellent stuff as he struck out four batters in the short outing, but often Gallagher had no idea where the ball was going with three walks, three wild pitches, and one hit batter.  A bounce back outing is needed from Gallagher who still leads the team in ERA (2.55) and strike outs per nine innings (9.68).

Key reliever Matt Leva has also struggled his last two times out as he gave up the walkoff home run two Sunday's ago at Texas and then was roughed up to the tune of four runs in 2 2/3 innings in the series finale versus the Trojans.  It will be interesting to see if Leva is run out in another key spot this weekend.  Blake Holler continues to look good as he notched the win in the middle game versus USC with three innings of relief work (two hits and one run allowed).  Greg Reynolds is throwing well since moving to the bullpen as the sophomore fired two no-hit frames last Sunday.  Erik Davis is tied for the team-lead in appearances with five and although his ERA is high at 6.97, the opposition is only batting .216 against the freshman.  Matt Manship and Jeff Stimpson also saw brief action last weekend with each hurler tossing a scoreless inning late Sunday.

At the plate, it was a relatively quiet weekend for the hitters against the much improved USC pitching staff.  Stanford is currently batting .283 as a team while scoring an average of 6.5 runs per game.  After a big weekend, shortstop Chris Minaker has jumped to the top of batting average ledger as he's now hitting at a .350 clip.  Second baseman Jed Lowrie is right on his heels at .339 while continuing to pace the club with seven home runs and 23 RBI.  First baseman John Mayberry, Jr. is hitting .313, but is looking to put a poor series with the bat behind him after going just 2-for-13 versus the Trojans (the two hits though came in his final two AB's on Sunday). 

The DH spot in the lineup has been troublesome all season, but two players are starting to emerge.  Freshman Brendan Domaracki is seeing most of the time against right-handed pitching and is batting .250 (5-for-20, .375 OBP) for the season.  Meanwhile, sophomore Ryan Seawell notched a couple of hits off the bench last weekend to raise his average to .231 (3-for-13) and is seeing the bulk of the action versus left-handed pitching.  This spot in the lineup will be key for the Cardinal as the season progresses.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Michael Taylor, RF  (Fr., .218, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
2. Chris Minaker, SS  (Jr., .350, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
3. Jed Lowrie, 2B  (Jr., .339, 7 HR, 23 RBI)
4. John Mayberry, Jr., 1B  (Jr., .311, 3 HR, 15 RBI)
5. Adam Sorgi, 3B  (So., .315, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
6. John Hester, C  (Jr., .283, 0 HR, 14 RBI)
7. Brendan Domaracki, DH  (Fr., .250, 0 HR, 1 RBI)  or  Ryan Seawell, DH  (So., .231, 0 HR, 2 RBI)
8. Chris Lewis, LF  (Jr., .273, 3 HR, 8 RBI)
9. Jim Rapoport, CF  (So., .231, 1 HR, 5 RBI)

Fri- Mark Romanczuk, LHP  (Jr., 3-2, 3.26 ERA, 30.1 IP, 15 BB, 27 SO)
Sat- Jeff Gilmore, RHP  (Jr., 2-1, 2.86 ERA, 28.1 IP, 9 BB, 24 SO)
Sun- Nolan Gallagher, RHP  (Fr., 0-2, 2.55 ERA, 17.2 IP, 10 BB, 19 SO)

Notes: Taylor went hitless in the last two games versus the Trojans after hitting safely in the previous six contests ... Minaker, in addition to leading the team in hitting, is tops on the club with seven doubles and is also the toughest to strike out (two K's in 60 AB's) ... Lowrie had his incredible three triples in one game versus Cal last season ... Hester may have broken out of a slump with a 2-for-5 effort in the finale versus USC ... Romanczuk, after walking nine batters in his first two starts (10.2 IP) has issued just six free passes over his last three starts (19.2 IP) ... Gilmore fired a complete-game (5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 SO) versus Cal at Sunken last April.



CALIFORNIA NOTES

It's been a tough last three seasons for the Cal baseball program.  2001 marked former Stanford player and assistant coach David Esquer's second season as the head man in Berkeley and he promptly went on to take the Bears to the NCAA Tournament.  He also lined up plenty of talent for the following years, but a couple of .500 seasons in 2002 and 2003 and then a dreadful 25-31 year in 2004 (9-15 in the Pac-10, ahead of just Washington State) were the result.  Now all of a sudden, Cal has been absent from the postseason for three years running.

Entering 2005, things weren't necessarily supposed to be much better for the Bears.  Five of their top six hitters have moved on while the same can be said for two of the three starting pitchers from last season.  But the influx of new talent may have been just what Cal needed.  After struggling initially this season with a 1-4 record out of the gate, the Bears have rattled off nine straight wins and are starting to look like a contender in the conference.  On paper, while this Cal team lacks experience in many places, it would appear they don't lack for talent.  The current sophomores were rated as a top five recruiting class upon their arrival to Berkeley and many of these players (some of which are redshirt freshmen) are starting to step up in a big way.

The turnaround for Cal was really sparked by a three-game sweep at Long Beach State two weeks ago.  The Dirtbags were playing without their #3 and #4 hitters (injuries), but a sweep at Long Beach is still an impressive feat.  The Bears followed it up with a fairly easy sweep of Saint Mary's last weekend and then took an 8-3 decision over USF on Tuesday.  So just like that, Cal is sporting a 10-4 record.

Nothing really jumps out at you on the Cal stat sheet.  As a team, they're hitting. 282 while scoring 5.5 runs per game.  Sophomore center fielder Brennan Boesch is the main power source for the Bears as he leads the team in batting average (.396) and home runs (3).  Boesch was one of the top high school players in the country two seasons ago and was one of the headliners of that heralded Cal recruiting class.  He had an up-and-down freshman campaign spending a portion of the season on the bench, but he now looks ready to lead this young offense.

Another super sophomore is outfielder Chris Errecart.  Errecart, like Boesch, was a major recruit and who found himself in-and-out of the lineup last year.  He looks to have found a home in the #3 position in the batting order (just ahead of Boesch) and should be a major part of the Cal offense the next few years.  Thus far in '05, Errecart is hitting .276 with two home runs and 10 RBI.

Finally, another name to keep an eye on in that recruiting class is redshirt freshman Mike Van Winden.  Van Winden starts at first base and has been hitting second in the lineup.  He's second on the club in hitting, behind Boesch, with a .318 batting average and one home run.  This offense is certainly young with seven of their 11 regulars either freshmen or sophomores and they'll likely be going through some growing pains this season, but there does appear to be plenty of talent to go around for Cal to have a successful season.

Meanwhile, the Bears pitching, like their hitting, has been solid, but not spectacular.  Junior right-hander Adam Gold returns as the ace of the team.  Gold had a very respectable 4.25 ERA last season, but posted just a 6-7 record as the Cal offense generally did very little on Friday nights against the opposing teams' ace.  Gold has been inconsistent this season with a 6.08 ERA through four starts, but he's experienced and has excellent stuff (22 SO in 23 2/3 IP speaks to that).  And he's fully capable of beating any team in the country.  Gold outdueled Long Beach's Cesar Ramos a couple of weeks ago allowing no earned runs on five hits in seven innings.

The Saturday spot in the rotation belongs to another experienced arm.  Senior right-hander Eric Dworkis played the last three seasons for Gonzaga in the WCC and was a key pitcher for the Bulldogs every year.  Last season, Dworkis compiled an 8-4 record with a 4.86 ERA and five complete games.  He's moved into the #2 position in Cal's rotation for his final collegiate season and is throwing well.  Last weekend against the Gaels, Dworkis fired a six-hit complete-game with just one run allowed, one walk, and ten strike outs.  Stanford is very familiar with Gold having seen plenty of him the last two seasons (with pretty good success), but Dworkis is an unknown.

Esquer looks to have a deep bullpen this season with senior lefty Travis Talbott leading the way.  Talbott is another experienced arm as the junkballer has already notched four saves this season.  He's been nearly unhittable with just one earned run surrendered in 15 2/3 innings as opponents bat only .120 against the crafty veteran.  Expect Esquer to turn the ball over to Talbott in any close game this weekend.

The verdict is still very much out on this Cal team.  This recent hot stretch is certainly impressive, but now they go up against the Pac-10 favorites and a legitimate top 15 team (Cal's first ranked opponent of the season ... past opponents UC Irvine and Long Beach are no longer ranked).  This young offense will be tested against Stanford's pitching staff and odds are that Cal will have to rely on their pitching to win this series.  Gold can be one of the best pitchers in the conference and Dworkis is coming off a fantastic start, so that matchup against the Cardinal hitters should be interesting.  We should have a pretty good idea about how much of a contender this Cal team can be after this weekend's series.

Probable Starting Lineup:
1. Allen Craig, SS  (Jr., .241, 0 HR, 4 RBI)
2. Mike Van Winden, 1B  (Fr., .318, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
3. Chris Errecart, LF  (So., .276, 2 HR, 10 RBI)
4. Brennan Boesch, CF  (So., .396, 3 HR, 8 RBI)
5. James Holder, DH  (Sr., .292, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
6. Josh Satin, 2B  (Fr., .276, 2 HR, 12 RBI)
7. Travis Howell, C  (Fr., .304, 0 HR, 3 RBI)  or  Garrett Bussiere, C  (So., .207, 1 HR, 5 RBI)
8. Jeremy Burchett, RF  (Jr., 2-for-6, 0 HR, 1 RBI)  or  Jason Corder, RF  (Fr., .192, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
9. Matt Einspahr, 3B  (Sr., .271, 1 HR, 10 RBI)

Fri- Adam Gold, RHP  (Jr., 1-1, 6.08 ERA, 23.2 IP, 8 BB, 22 SO)
Sat- Eric Dworkis, RHP  (Sr., 1-1, 4.32 ERA, 25.0 IP, 5 BB, 26 SO)
Sun- TBA

Notes: Craig is a three-year starter and one of the few experienced bats in this lineup ... Van Winden has drawn a team-high 11 walks to result in a .439 OBP ... Boesch may drop down in the lineup on Friday against the lefty Romanczuk ... Holder has started the last two seasons posting a .305 average in 2003 and a .273 average last season ... Gold made two starts against Stanford last season going 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA (11 IP/8 ER).

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