No. 13 Bears finding groove as Pacific visits Evans

Photo: Third baseman Mitch Delfino is second among starters with a .353 batting average.
Kevin Foote/Staff
Third baseman Mitch Delfino is second among starters with a .353 batting average.

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Before the season, Cal baseball coach David Esquer said that pitching and defense would be his team's calling cards this year.

Turns out the No. 13 Bears have a fuller deck.

The team has been more than solid in both those facets 25 games in - it ranks second in the Pac-10 in opposing batting average and in the top four in both fielding percentage and double plays.

But when Pacific visits Evans Diamond at 2:30 p.m. today, they'll have to deal with more than midweek starter Kevin Miller's 0.46 ERA.

Against USC on Sunday, pitcher Dixon Anderson wasn't his usual self as he allowed four runs in the game's first 4 1/3 innings.

So the Bears looked elsewhere.

They were aggressive when batting, with catcher Chadd Krist hacking out foul balls until he connected on his first home run of the season.

They showed some fire when needed, as third baseman Mitch Delfino exchanged a few choice words with the Trojans' Brandon Garcia; the designated hitter had just been tagged out at second as he slid in, but had left Tony Renda crumpled in the dirt.

Not quite the usual college small ball, but now Cal (19-6, 5-1 in the Pac-10) knows it has a couple more weapons.

"This team is so close-knit," said center fielder Darrel Matthews, who had three RBI against the Trojans. "We know we have to pick each other up. When the hitters aren't hitting, (pitchers) have to pick us up and vice versa."

The Bears have also shown more versatility at the plate. The middle of the batting order struggled against the Trojans Sunday, with shortstop Marcus Semien and second baseman Tony Renda - first and second on the team in RBI - combining to go 2-for-9.

Instead, other bats woke up. Matthews and left fielder Austin Booker paced the bottom of the order with 2-for-4 and 2-for-3 performances, respectively. Not a single Cal batter struck out.

"It's a sign of a great team that our big hitters don't have to always tear it up in order for us to put up a lot of runs," catcher Chadd Krist said. "Our six through nine hitters, everybody, every other game is stepping up."

Pacific (8-16) hasn't performed nearly as well lately. Last Friday, the Tigers were blown out 20-0 by Long Beach State before closing the three-game series with two close contests.

The Bears, meanwhile, are tied for the Pac-10 lead with Arizona State and UCLA. Will they still be there in June?

"It's too early to look at things like that," Esquer said. "We're just taking every single win we can get. Every single win gets us closer to where we want to be."

Tags: CAL BASEBALL, DAVID ESQUER, KEVIN MILLER, CHADD KRIST


Jack Wang covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]



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