#41 California Baseball Preview

California Golden Bears

Overall Rank: #40
Conference Rank: #7 Pac-12
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The California Golden Bears will enter the 2013 season looking to rebound from a very disappointing 2012 campaign. Cal ended up missing the NCAA Tournament after making the College World Series in 2011 in dramatic fashion.  In a Pac-12 Conference that is growing in competitiveness, defending champs Arizona and power programs like UCLA and Oregon are also looking to get to Omaha. It is going to be critical for the Golden Bears to start fast to gain momentum in conference play if they are to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2013.

2012: 29-25, 12-18
2012 Postseason: None
Coach: David Esquer, 14th Season

Field Players:
The Golden Bears struggled at times to score runs in 2012 especially in conference play as they had a -15 run differential. Thus, getting some instant impact from incoming players like Nick Halamdaris and John Riley, to go along with veterans like senior Vince Bruno will be important.  Bruno is the leading returner in the majority of the offensive categories for Cal. He hit .323, drove in 26 runs and had a solid walk to strikeout ratio of 1:1 as he only struck out 17 times in 198 plate appearances. Junior Andrew Knapp will try to build off of an excellent Cape Cod League performance last summer with the Chatham Anglers where he hit eight home runs and drove in 29 in 40 games for the Anglers. The ability to score more runs is very crucial in the Pac-12 when going up against dynamic offenses like Arizona, the defending national champions.

A mix of experience and great potential returns to the hill for Cal in 2013. Senior Justin Jones will attempt to bounce back after a rough 4-9 season in 2012.  Jones was a freshman all-American in 2010 and needs to improve on things like hits to innings-pitched as he allowed 88 hits in 80.2 innings in 2012. Kyle Porter made just ten appearances, including five starts in 2012, and had a 2-1 record with a 5.75 earned run average. Porter needs to be able to lock down one of the weekend rotation spots if the Golden Bears are going back to the NCAA Tournament. Logan Scott will be the closer.  In 2012 he had a team leading seven saves and did an excellent job with his control only walking seven batters in 40 innings of work.

Who to Watch:
Cal’s class of 13 newcomers is expected to have several players, including freshman right-hander Ryan Mason, freshman infielder Max Dutto and freshman catcher/infielder Mitchell Kransen make an instant impact. Nick Halmandaris was an 8th round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, and being able to get him to Berkeley is huge.  He will provide great versatility as he can play both the outfield and at first base.

Final Projection:
Cal will hit the ground running in its non-conference schedule with an opening weekend battle against Big Ten foe Michigan. There also will be regional showdowns with Fresno State and Big West powerhouse UC Irvine.  A trip to Houston to play the likes of Baylor and North Carolina is on tap as well. The key for the Golden Bears will be health as losing Devon Rodriguez, the 2011 Houston Regional Most Outstanding Player, proved to be a critical blow throughout most of the 2012 season. Also, if Cal can shore up its defense, the team will go a long way in getting back to the postseason.  They committed 99 errors in 2012 in comparison to their opponents committing 70. With the cloud of potentially cutting the program long gone, and the motivation of missing the postseason, look for this Cal team to scratch and claw its way back to the NCAA Tournament in 2013.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Baseball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Vince Bruno, OF, 198
Hits: Vince Bruno, OF, 64
Home Runs: Andrew Knapp, C/UTIL,  5
RBIs: Vince Bruno, OF, 26; Andrew Knapp, C/UTIL, 26
Runs: Vince Bruno, OF, 37
Stolen Bases: Vince Bruno, OF, 5

Wins: Logan Scott, P, 4; Justin Jones, P, 4
Innings Pitched: Justin Jones, P, 80.2
Strikeouts: Justin Jones, P, 50
Saves: Logan Scott, P, 7


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