Story Poster
Photo by Robert Edwards-KLC fotos

New and Different Baseball Season Opens Friday

February 18, 2021

The Cal baseball team, whose 2020 season was abruptly halted by the coronavirus pandemic nearly a year ago, will take the field this weekend in a four-game season opening series against Pacific.

The first two games, Friday and Saturday at 5 p.m., will be at Evans Diamond in Berkeley. The final two contests, Sunday at 2 p.m. and Monday at 5 p.m., will be in Stockton.

Every collegiate sports team has had to make changes because of the pandemic and baseball is certainly no exception. Last year the season was called off on March 10 after just 16 games. This year the Bears hope to play 54, but it won’t be business as usual. The major adjustments are to the schedule, the makeup of the roster and how the players prepare.

Robert Edwards/KLC fotos
Mike Neu

The non-league portion of the schedule customarily includes intersectional matchups. In an effort to boost his team’s RPI (Rating Percentage Index) and increase the chances for postseason play. Cal head coach Mike Neu had lined up a series at perennial powerhouse Florida and the Bears were headed for three games in a Big-10 vs. Big-12 matchup in Minnesota. 

“That is all out the window now,” Neu said in a Zoom conference this week.

All the non-league games will be played in California. 

“We’ve essentially changed every single game in our nonconference schedule,” Neu said. “Now we’re playing more local. We commute the first three weeks. Then we play at home the next two weeks.”

Neu said that he was not sure how the altered schedule would affect the RPI“I  “That’s probably the unknown,” he said. “Because we basically built our [original] schedule to finish in the top 30 in the RPI.”

As far as the roster, the Bears will have more upperclassmen than normal. The major league baseball draft was shortened from 40 rounds to just five last June. That probably affected every team in the country, including Cal, Second baseman Darren Baker (son of big-league manager Dusty Baker) and third baseman Quentin Selma would likely have been taken in the middle rounds and turned pro. Now they are back and give the Bears talent and experience.

Robert Edwards-KLC fotos
Quentin Selma

The top of half of Neu’s projected lineup has Baker leading off and Selma batting third. Surrounding them will Dylan Beavers battin second in center, Nathan Mortorella  hitting fourth at first base and Steven Zobac playing left and hitting fifth. Zobac and preseason All-American Grant Holman both pitch as well as playing the field

“I think we have a solid group,” Neu said. “Some pretty talented guys who will be high draft picks.”

Neu said he felt the team’s strength was its pitching,, a deep bullpen and a rotation anchored by Holman who will start the opener.

 “We feel like we have five guys that can start for us,” said Neu, referring to Holman, Sean Sullivan, freshman Paulshawn Pasqualotto (a headline writer’s nightmare) Josh White and Sam Stoutenborough. “We feel pretty good about the whole staff. We have some depth and some experience.”

The first four pitchers named will start the UOP series in that order. Neu said Stoutenborough has some hamstring issues and will open the season in the bullpen. Closer Joseph King is also ailing, some arm issues will keep him on the shelf the first couple of series.

Peter Fukumae
Grant Holman

Preseason training was made more complicated by the pandemic. Practice time was limited, as was the access. Only so many players could be on the field at any one time.

“It’s definitely been different, but it’s been OK,” Neu said. “We had a little shorter leadup time going into the season, not having a fall (season). But I feel like we just sort of simplified everything, and I think we did a really good job in the offseason giving these guys pretty good direction about what we wanted them to do….We had to simplify things. A little less offensively and defensively as far as what we were going to implement normally for the first weekend. In some ways it’s really better because we can figure out what’s really important to us. 

“And we just have to ramp up the pitchers a little slower having less lead-in time. Instead of guys being ready for full go that first weekend where they could throw close to 100 pitches, it will probably be more in the 85 range.

“The biggest thing is to keep everybody healthy, We want to be prepared as best we can but not skip any steps with our development and preparation.

“I feel like we are ready to play some games.”

More Stories:

Aaron Rodgers Named NFL’s AP Most Valuable Player

Wilcox Talks New Staff, Returning Players, Spring Ball and More


Discussion from...

New and Different Baseball Season Opens Friday

2,182 Views | 0 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by dbush518
There are not any replies to this post yet.
Page 1 of 1
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.