Bears Hope to Reap Benefits of Practice Against Aggies

Photo: <b>Junior Jeff Kobernus</b> enters today's game against UC Davis hitting .309 and tied for the team lead with nine stolen bases.
Victoria Chow/File
Junior Jeff Kobernus enters today's game against UC Davis hitting .309 and tied for the team lead with nine stolen bases.

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Baseball: UC Davis Preview

Beat writers Katie Dowd and Matt Kawahara discuss the reasons for the Bears' recent eight-game slide and how they can turn it around today against UC Davis.

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Kicking an eight-game losing streak is no simple task, but the answer could be as simple as something that the Cal baseball team hasn't had a lot of lately: practice.

"We haven't really had a practice in a couple weeks, and if we did, it's been batting practice," center fielder Brett Jackson said. "It's a practice well-needed, and hopefully we fix up some stuff and clean up parts of our game."

Unfortunately for the Bears, an unrelenting schedule -- nine away games in the last two weeks -- has meant a lot of time away from the practice field.

Cal's snowballing problems have ranged from clumsy defense to shaky pitching to a hit-or-miss offense, all of which have had to be worked out on the field.

"It's a little bit harder to get into a groove, especially because you've been playing poorly," infielder Michael Brady said. "I think when you have days off, it's easier to regroup and especially with practice you come out and work on stuff."

Combined with Tuesday afternoon's practice -- during which contact hitting and consistent defense were points of emphasis -- today's game against UC Davis at 2:30 p.m. at Dobbins Stadium in Davis, Calif., could be just the thing to help the Bears regain their early-season form.

"During the beginning of the season, we were a constant offense," coach David Esquer said. "Now we're starting out early -- Washington game one we scored eight runs in the first three innings and didn't score again -- but if we were able to stay consistent and constant, good things would happen."

Cal (15-18, 3-10 in the Pac-10) hasn't won a game since defeating San Francisco on March 31, and during that span, the Bears have watched their team ERA balloon to 5.91, worst in the conference.

But the Aggies are a less-than-formidable foe, coming into the matchup sporting a record of 6-23 without a series win this season.

"You never know when (the end of the streak is) going to happen and what it's going to take," Esquer said. "We've got to stay the course. And really it's not about having to sweep people and win eight games in a row. We've got to win one game as often as we can."

The brightest spot for Cal remains its offense, which still ranks near the top of the Pac-10 in batting average and boasts some of the best hitters in the conference in Jackson and right fielder Mark Canha.

Canha and Jackson -- who have both ridden hot streaks at the plate in spite of the team's overall struggles -- are among the top 10 in home runs, hits and slugging percentage.

And while the past several weeks have been tough on the team, if Brady's assessment that slumps are part of the natural flow of baseball holds true, then the Bears have something to look forward to: breaking out of their slump just in time for the last few weeks of the season.

"It's a struggle and it's a grind right now, but we still come out to win every day," Jackson said. "Hopefully the tides will turn, and we'll get hot at the end of the season."


Contact Katie Dowd at [email protected]

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