Cal head coach Mike Neu did his best to keep this weekend’s three-game home series against No.2-ranked Stanford in perspective.
But the simple fact is this: It’s the biggest series of the Bears’ season.
“Huge, it’s huge,” is how Arman Sabouri, who will be Cal’s starting pitcher for Friday’s series opener, described the three-game set in the video above.
“It’s a big deal,” said Bears catcher Korey Lee in a video seen here.
And you can count the reasons why it’s so big.
---1. Cal has not won a season series from archrival Stanford since 2008, when the Bears went 3-1-1 against a Cardinal team that was ranked No. 6 at the time and later won two games in the College World Series.
---2, Stanford’s head coach is David Esquer, who was Cal’s head coach just two years ago and recruited most of Cal’s current players to Berkeley.
“It’s weird,” Sabouri said.
---3. Stanford (35-8, 17-4 Pac-12) is tied for first place in the Pac-12, but Cal (28-15, 12-8) is as hot as it’s been in years, winning 17 of its past 21 games and riding a five-game winning streak.
“Every Cal-Stanford is big every year, no matter who’s doing well, who’s not,” Sabouri said, “but both of our teams are doing pretty well, and they’re tied for the top.”
---4. Cal has not reached the postseason since 2015, and winning a game or two against Stanford would greatly enhance the Bears’ chances of reaching the field of 64 postseason teams.
“This is a bigger opportunity, there’s no question,” Neu admitted. “We play a high RPI team. We play them at home. It’s an opportunity for us to get closer to be where we want to be, which is in the postseason, and have a chance to ultimately play in and win the College World Series.”
This week, D1 Baseball projected the Bears would be in the postseason field as a No. 2 seed in one of the 16 four-team regionals while Baseball America has the Bears in the tournament as a No. 3 seed.
---5. Pitching vs. hitting. Stanford ranks fifth in the country in ERA (3.05) and Cardinal pitchers have given up just 18 homers. The Bears are eighth in the country in home runs with 66.
---6. Cal star Andrew Vaughn is hot. Last year, Vaughn won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s best amateur player, and he is hitting like that now. His batting average is up to .375, and he has hit .434 over the past 14 games.
---7. All three games will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Here are the starting times and projected pitching matchups for the three games this weekend at Evans Diamond, adjacent to Haas Pavilion:
Friday, 7 p.m. – Cal’s Arman Sabouri (2-2, 2.14 ERA) vs. Stanford’s Brendan Beck (4-3, 2.74)
Saturday, 2 p.m. – Cal’s Jared Horn (4-1, 2.03 ERA) vs. Stanford’s Will Matthiessen (5-1, 3.20)
Sunday, noon – Cal TBD vs. Stanford’s Erik Miller (6-1, 2.64)