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Bay Area Baseball Media Day

February 7, 2024
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In this week’s baseball Bay Area Media Day, Cal head coach Mike Neu and team leaders Rodney Green and Caleb Lomavita addressed the media with the season a little more than a week away.

"I think we obviously weren't happy with the way that the season went (last year) but we did show some resilience and finished up strong, able to make the (Pac-12) tournament,” Cal head coach Mike Neu said. “It kind of came down to the last weekend for us but really happy with the way the team showed some toughness to be able to get in there and obviously give us a chance to get to a regional, even with some ups and downs and some some tough parts of the season. But for our guys to step up late and get in there that was really encouraging.

“We do return a lot this year that we feel really good about, really starting with these two guys, with RJ and Loma. 

"RJ got a chance to play with Team USA. Awesome opportunity for him. Loma was a reserve and didn't get a chance to get that call, but had a great summer out in the cape as well. And we pretty much run everything through these guys, which is great. And then we have some other older guys that are back that we feel like have a chance to step up. Max Handran had an outstanding year for us as a JC transfer. Probably played better than we had expected and we expect him to do well again. Carson Crawford had an impact year and has continued to get better. 

"We also have some freshmen that we feel really good about and some other guys as well that have a chance to make an impact. The freshmen up the middle with PJ Moutzouridis at shortstop and Jarren Advincula at second and Ryan Tayman had a really good fall offensively for us. So we'll have a pretty good combo of some talent with some older returning guys and some younger guys.

“And on the mound, we'll get Ian May back hopefully right around conference. We lost him to injury. He was really, really good up until he got injured. So that'll that'll be big. Give us a boost there.

"He's going to start facing hitters here in the next week or so. So we just want to make sure we don't rush it. We'd like to get him back once and keep him so I think we're trying to be as conservative, but also aggressive as possible and find that balance to where he can come back and, and be ready to go. Obviously, he's not going to be throwing a ton early on but but hopefully we can progress him and put him in some situations to be successful. And by the time we get midway through conference, you hope he's he's feeling pretty good as far as his build-up and all the things he needs to do to be successful on the mound. But he's been doing really good.

“The rehab has gone outstanding. He feels really good right now. I think we actually have to kind of dial him down a little bit to make sure that we give him the proper time from a medical standpoint to be back. But he's had no setbacks. He's been really good. And he's pretty much full go right now. I mean, if we wanted to, we could probably start him at the beginning of the season but I think we want to be smart about the way we go about it.

"We have five or six guys that we feel like are capable of giving us some bulk innings on the weekend. I think we're still, competing internally a little bit with how that's gonna work out. We probably don't have outside of May what he was doing before he went down, just a guy that's going to just absolutely dominate with stuff, but we feel like our ceiling our floor is way higher, and we've got some guys with some experience. So I think the pitch counts early, nobody's going to be throwing complete games the first couple of weekends. So we feel like we can still get some guys out there, get them some experience, give them a chance to give us a great outing and as we build up, we can kind of see how it's gonna shake out a little bit. But I think the good news is we have some options, we have some guys we have a lot of confidence in, we have some new guys. So we'll have to kind of put it together the best way we know how to help us win games. And then hopefully, it'll sort itself out a little bit until we get May back. But even when we get him back, it'll be that way a little bit, throughout the weekend, but feeling pretty good about the options that we have in comparison to where we were last year, where a lot of guys were gaining experience as they're playing in Pac-12 games.

“That recipe is very, very tough at times. There's just too many good teams out there. And I think we've gotten over that hump with a lot of these guys and have a little bit more experience and a little bit more learning from those failures to where there's a lot more confidence. There's lot of guys that, you know are ready to go compete. So it'll be exciting. I'm excited to see how these guys respond.

“Tyler Stasiowski out of the bullpen was outstanding for us last year and will be an impact out of the bullpen. Our rotation, we're still still not set there but we feel like we're way deeper on the mound than we were last year. Andres Galan finished the year really strong. Christian Becerra had some ups and downs, but pitched some big innings for us. Tucker Bougie has been pitching great for us the last couple of years and will have a bigger role. And then we'll have some freshmen and some new guys - some transfers as well, that can definitely help us there. 

"We had a good fall, we were able to stay healthy. Feel confident going into the season with the experience that we have and some adversity that we've dealt with in the past, and we feel like it's made us better. Feel like the the culture that we've created and the expectations are really good. And I think everybody's bought into what we're doing. So I think we're really excited, probably like everybody is at this time of year. But you know, there's definitely some things to be excited about. And I think we'll have a team that will be really fun to watch with the talent, that competitiveness that we have. So I think there a lot of positive things going into the season and definitely excited for where we're at right now."

Green had the chance to play with the collegiate national team in the offseason and he was asked what he was able to take away from the experience.

"The biggest thing for me was mainly being able to go make a connection with those guys. A lot of those guys are really awesome, really good people and I got pretty close with a few guys over that summer. I realized that was something that I really wanted to focus on this year. For me it was being able to go out there and make the connection with those guys and bring it back and be able to have these conversations with some of my teammates, mainly the freshmen that are coming in, just so they're ready, just so they understand what they're getting into because obviously they playing a bunch of a bunch of grown men. So being able to change their mentalities and keep them focused and help them compete at all times. So that was the biggest thing for me."

Lomavita comes into the season as a clear leader both on and off the field and will be leaned on by Neu and the team for that experience and leadership.

"We talked a lot this year about improvements," Lomavita noted. "Taking it a day at a time. We have a daily sheet that we have right outside of our locker room and it's each individual's goals for the day. And if you continue to focus on those little goals and details and minute things, then I feel like those things just add up without you even seeing it. It's going to show when we get on that field and in the spring and that's that's pretty much the things we've been focusing on."

Neu was asked about his feelings coming into the Bears last season in the Pac-12 and playing against a Miami team he helped lead to a National Championship 20 years ago when they join the ACC next year.

"I mean, it's kind of bittersweet," Neu said. "The Pac-12 conference is such a great conference and so historic when it comes to baseball. Obviously, being in the last year of the conference, it's exciting that we have a chance to play for a championship in this conference, but gonna miss that regional competition and the things that we have there. But looking forward, ACC is a great baseball conference. It's one of the best in the country and the competition level is extremely high. There's some great places to play. Obviously, getting the chance to play Miami, it's going to be personally a cool experience to have that. We do have our 25th reunion the first weekend from that championship team that I'm obviously not going to be at but there's a lot of history and great things in the ACC. So I think it's kind of a weird situation. Definitely sad to see the Pac-12 not be there. It's It's an amazing conference, but excited for the future and the opportunities. There's gonna be some great opportunities for us to play against great teams in that conference. So I think there's some excitement there, no doubt."

The Bears picked up a trio of lower division players who were highly-productive and will be counted on for some solid production in 2024 in pitcher Luke Short, who went 12-1 with a 2.45 ERA last season, speedy Middlebury outfielder Alec Ritch who hit .310 as a redshirt junior with 5 home runs on the season and pitcher Tom Mayer from William and Mary, who had a 3.43 ERA as a combo starter/reliever last season.

"We had Cade Kretschmar last year from Dartmouth and you don't really know what to expect," Neu said. "It's obviously a different environment and a different level, but he got off to a slow start and then had a huge year for us, and I think both of these guys are capable of doing that. I think there's a little bit of a transition period.

“For Alec, the pitching is a little bit different, but he had a great fall. He's had some really good at bats. He's very mature. He's a great teammate. He's got speed on the bases, he's got some real tools. So if he can adjust to the level of play, which is going to be a little bit more consistent than he's used to, I think he's got a chance to have a great year and that's exciting for us.

“And Luke is similar. Pitching at the Division 2 level he was dominant. He's had some great outings for us. Obviously, a left hander with some some real stuff is always great to have and he's going to make an impact for us in some way, there's no doubt. His stuff is really good. You just hope that level transitions quicker because there's a transition period, there's no doubt. It's just a little bit different. The guys that are here used to doing it. 

"We have another guy, Tom Mayer from William and Mary also who was was really solid for them. So I think we have three of those guys that we feel like are mature, experienced and you hope that this transition period comes quicker with success. And if it does, they all three have a chance to make a big impact this year, and we're definitely hoping for that because obviously, having having that experience has proven throughout the country that it's definitely helpful."

As much as they bring to the field in talent, players like Green amd Lomavita are worth their weight in gold in leadership and intangibles as well.

"As good and as talented as these two guys are on the field, their character is outstanding, too," Neu said. "They're great teammates, they're great leaders, they have great work ethic, so they're going to impact our program. Obviously, they already have impacted our program, but they will again this year and it will be lasting for years to come because of just the way they go about it every day. How they show up in the weight room, on the field. RJ even talked about it. He's talking about his experience. Obviously, it's going to help him. But he's talking about helping some of these other guys with what he's learned and Loma's exactly the same way. So they've been great. They're my go-to guys if we need anything. Anything that we need to do as far as culture or attention to detail, or discipline to execute, they understand how important that is, and they've been through it.

“They've seen the failures and successes, so I'm gonna miss them for sure. And, you know, anytime you have guys like that, it's sad to see them go, but we're going to embrace that each day that they're here and hopefully, we're just going to take it one day at a time, try to be the best we can be today. And I'm going to kind of treat it like that just being around these guys, too. So we can enjoy the time that they're here. But hopefully, things work out and they they get a chance to go as high as possible in this draft coming up."

Stay tuned about the newest Bear additions this week. 

 

Bay Area Baseball Media Day

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