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Cal Baseball Looks to Replace MLB Draftees, Return to Regionals

February 12, 2023

Last week, Cal baseball head coach Mike Neu, redshirt soph pitcher Paulshawn Pasqualotto and soph centerfielder Rodney Green, Jr addressed the media in their annual Bay Area Media Day.

Neu started things off with general remarks about the team, who are coming off a 29-27 season, finishing in a tie with Washington for sixth place in the conference at 14-16.

“Last year, we made a pretty good push toward the end of the season," Neu said. "I thought we made a little bit of a run for regionals and we played our best baseball at the end of the season which I think was really encouraging for our program and for the team that we had. 

"Moving forward we lost six to the draft (Dylan Beavers, Steven Zobac, Josh White, Nathan Martorella, Joseph King, and Keshawn Ogans) from last years team and we lost one incoming guy so it obviously changes the complexion of our team a bit but it also I think it's a unique year. Last year we had quite a few younger players, especially freshmen, that played a lot on a pretty solid overall team and gained experience throughout the year and obviously those guys, we will rely on them a lot this year. 

"Caleb Lomavita was all Pac-12 last year as a freshman. RJ (Rodney) Green Jr. had an unbelievable year, especially toward the finish, and I think those two guys coming back that had great years as true freshmen and will continue to do that is the expectation. And then Ian May, Christian Becerra, Tucker Bougie are all freshmen. Ian May is a left-handed pitcher the other two right-handed freshmen that pitched significant innings for us last year that will be relied on more this season. 

"Carson Crawford and Jack Johnston were infielders that played quite a bit as freshmen as well that will have more significant roles and then we have some returning veterans that you know have played a lot. Dom Souto had a breakout year as a senior last year and he returns as a fifth-year and Nathan Manning and Connor Sullivan. Nathan Manning an outfielder who's a senior, Connor Sullivan who is a redshirt junior who pitched quite a bit. So I think the experience of this team is great and then we have Paulshawn (Pasqualotto) with us who's returning from injury. Matt Lozovoy is another pitcher who missed (most of) last year. But Paulshawn was really, really good for us as a freshman before his injury and we're excited to get him back. It's a very big boost to our pitching staff so getting him back is going to be big for our weekend rotation and probably even though losing our three starters from last year, maybe feel a little bit better about our overall depth and he's a big part of that. 

"We also had four transfers: Peyton Schulze from Long Beach State, Kade Kretzschmar from Dartmouth, Joe Williams from Pomona Pitzer, and Daniel Colwell from UCLA. Two pitchers and two position players gives us a little bit of cushion to the draft with some guys that are veterans and have some experience that we feel really good about."

Neu was asked about the potential impact of outfielder Kretzschmar, last year's Ivy League Player of the Year. The grad student transfer from Dartmouth hit an impressive .353 with 28 extra base hits (16 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs) in 2022 and finished third in the Ivy League with 46 RBI, and third in total bases with 106. 

“Yeah I mean you know he's a he's an older guy, he's physical, and he's a good defender. as well," Neu noted. "He's kind of a pretty well-rounded, mature player and then obviously coming from the Ivy League and winning Player of the Year in that conference, it's just nice to have an addition like that. Obviously the transfer portal is kind of a newer thing and you can see how people are using it in different ways but I think for that for us, thats really good. You're not going to replace a guy like Dylan Beavers that is a first round draft pick, so getting a guy with experience that is older and has some physicality and can do some things, that helps for sure. That gives us another layer that we may not have been able to do without that opportunity to get them over here.”

Despite the turnover the roster saw after last season, there is optimism in Berkeley about the prospects for this year's team.

"I think we had a great fall," Neu said. "I mean I really like our group of guys. I know everybody feels pretty good about the season at this point of the year because you haven't played any games and the expectations are high but I can say this as a coach. I do really like our group of guys. I think they're really tight. I think they really enjoy being around each other, they enjoy the work, and I'm not just saying that. I think it's the truth and I think it's gonna help us play well and hopefully early on. I'm excited about this opportunity with this group of two guys next to me. I'm pumped that they're here with me they're really a big part of this thing and they're good guys as well."

Green had a strong frosh season after arriving from local El Cerrito High School, flashing speed, power and a fairly consistent bat, starting 36 of 44 games played in center field, hitting .293 with 37 runs scored and 21 RBI, including 19 extra base hits, with 10 doubles, three triples and six home runs. The talented frosh started the final 18 games and led the team with a .362 batting average (25-for-69) during that stretch. In the Pac-12 Tournament, he hit .538 (7-for-13) with a home run and two doubles.

“We've been really fortunate here to see Dylan Beavers and see Andrew Vaughn (in recent years) and RJ is definitely as talented as those guys and for him to get an opportunity as a freshman and really he earned that - he didn't start right away, but he worked and he showed in practice what he was capable of doing and we probably made a little bit of a commitment too as a coaching staff to say, 'Man this guy is really talented. Let's see what he can do and he gave himself that opportunity and it was impressive," Neu said of Green. "He did some really really big-time things and he's only a sophomore so to see what he's able to do the next two years, I'm excited to see that because he is a very talented player and as he continues to play more games and get more comfortable, I just can't see him not getting exponentially better and he's already pretty good.”

Green talked about some of the things he worked on in the offseason to up his game for his second campaign with the Bears.

“For me personally I would say something I've really worked on was just being able to use my strength and stuff," Green noted. "I mean obviously, I was really strong last year and I feel like I've put on a lot of good weight this year and just being able to display my power and I'll also say I could have done a little bit better in the outfield and I decided to focus more on my outfield skills and just make sure I can make good plays and get on the ball very quickly.”

Green credits hitting coach Noah Jackson with helping expand his game heading into the 2023 season.

“I love Noah to death," Green said. "That guy's helping me through it the whole time, just really focusing on my hitting and stuff and he's very much helped me improve my game a lot. He’s been helping me get my pull-side power a lot more since last year. I was more like an opposite (field) hitter guy and now this year I've been able to display my power to the pull side so I want to thank Noah for that for sure.”

“I think he's gonna be really good," Pasqualotto said of Green. "I think he was really good coming in his freshman year  I mean he has everything. The speeds, the arm, the power- he's got everything so he's definitely a tough out, especially on pitching to him. I got to throw to him all fall. I know I couldn't really make a mistake or that ball is going a long way."

Pasqualotto will be counted on to anchor the pitching rotation after missing the end of the 2021 and all of the 2022 season due to injury. The 2021 Freshman All-American is expected to help replace the arms lost to the 2022 MLB Draft. The native of Las Vegas, Nev., went 4-3 with a 4.57 ERA in 2021. He held opponents to a .242 average that season and recorded five-plus strikeouts in five of his eight starts.

“For me obviously, I haven't played since freshman year halfway through, about like 60%, so I've just been trying to get healthy, but all fall I've been building up and I feel really good," said Pasqualato. "I'm ready for the season, obviously been itching for it for I think about like two years now so I'm really excited but I mean I've just been kind of emphasizing my fastball command getting ahead. Struggled with that a little bit my freshman year as it wasn't what I wanted but just kind of committing to the zone with all my pitches and obviously establishing a fastball so that's kind of what I've been working on.”

The redshirt soph got a boost from working former Bears, particularly former Cal All-Conference pitcher Aaron Shortridge, who's currently in Double-A ball with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who selected him in the 4th round of the 2018 MLB draft.

“I mean it was pretty nice because there's a lot of pro guys that come back," Pasqualotto noted. "One I really kind of leaned on was Aaron Shortridge who was here in the past few years obviously and he got TJ (Tommy John) I think he got it only like a few months ahead of me in the process but got a little earlier than me but I kind of leaned on him and asked a lot of questions. Thankfully the trainers and staff were here all summer so I stayed out here instead of going home, just for rehab and I'm pretty thankful for that but I leaned on him a lot and I think it's going really well so I'm excited.”

Wrapping up, Neu and the players were asked about what he’s most anticipating and concerned about heading into the 2023 season.

“I'm excited just kind of like I talked about before just to see how this group of guys come together. I don't think we've ever lost this much but also had this much (young) experience coming back," Neu said. "And seeing how we can just kind of navigate through probably a pretty tough beginning of the season and continue to get better. 

"I thought we came together really well toward the end and hopefully we can do that a little bit sooner this year. I think you know obviously the concern is we do have some new guys. I think I would say typically if you looked at us on paper, you'd probably say, 'Hey the pitching could be a little bit of a concern with losing three starters to the draft, but I do feel I'm excited about the guys are gonna have step up, and I'm confident that we're gonna play really well but I would say that could be a concern. I just don't feel that way personally. I just think we're going to get through this and we're going to be in a really good spot.”

“I think this is one of the closest teams I've been a part of," Pasqualotto added. "I think that's kind of what it takes to go to go far in college baseball or any baseball, to be honest. But definitely, one of the closest teams I've been a part of. We do a lot of things together even  off the field we're always bonding as a team and I think that's probably the most important thing for a team so just including everyone and just being together and playing for each other so I'm excited.”

The Bears will open the season on the road for a 3-game set in Houston before returning to the bay for a non-conference game at Stanford’s Sunken Diamond.

Stay tuned for more from Neu on the Bears’ new additions in the ‘22 recruiting and transfer class as well as the 2023 signees.

Other stories:

10 of the Greatest Running Back Seasons in Cal Football History

Wilcox Introduces New Additions to '23 Class in NSD Presser

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Cal Baseball Looks to Replace MLB Draftees, Return to Regionals

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