Texas Baseball vs Cal in Round Rock: Preview & Open Thread

The Longhorns of the Diamond stayed hot in this week's midweek contest against UT-Pan Am, and they did it in their suddenly discovered new style: with solid but unspectacular pitching and enough power hitting from key players to pound out enough runs to win comfortably. In particular, Jonathan Walsh stayed hot with a 3-for-4 night including a three-run homerun and a two-run double.

To be honest, the pitching was actually very good too aside from a single tough inning. In the top of the third, Pan Am put up a four spot off freshman Ricky Jacquez in his only inning of work. The inning started with a pair of singles (the first came on an 0-2 count), then after a flyout Jacquez surrendered a three-run bomb to tie the game at four. The Broncs weren't done yet, as the homer was immediately followed with a triple. But Jacquez managed to get the next two guys (albeit with the first getting an RBI groundout) to keep Texas within one run and in position to strike. Hoby Milner shut down UTPA the rest of the way to take the win on a night where four Longhorns hat a multi-hit game.

With the win, UT has now won nine of ten ballgames. Texas welcomes the California Golden Bears to the Austin metro area this weekend, as the series will be hosted at Dell Diamond in Round Rock instead of UFCUDFF. Note that, while the schedule originally called for a four-game set with a double header Saturday, that has been altered and now Saturday will be a single game. So this weekend brings us a very normal series except for the fact that it's a late non-conference matchup and it's not actually at Texas's home park. The first two games will be carried on the Longhorn Network, with the third available to all (!) on ESPN3. More on the Bears after the jump.

You may remember Cal-Berkeley as unquestionably last season's best feel-good story in college baseball. If not, here's a recap: in 2010 the University of California announced that baseball would be among five sports cut out completely from the school's offerings in order to save money in a cash-strapped university system. In the grand scheme, of course, the word "tragedy" is badly overblown to describe the situation; but in the world of college baseball, it would have been something close to that to lose a program like Cal. The Golden Bears are not necessarily among the game's royalty, but they did win the first-ever College World Series in 1947 and have played in five others, winning again in '57.

After a desperate fundraising campaign, Cal baseball was able to raise about $9 million--including significant donations and organizational efforts from several Stanford grads--and in April 2011 the program was reinstated. The 2011 Bears then went on to make an unlikely run to Omaha, the team's first CWS appearance in almost 20 years. So Cal was a charmed, lovable team in 2011.

They were also a mediocre team until they caught fire in the NCAA Tournament. They sported a 31-20 overall record and a 13-13 conference one, good for only sixth place in the Pac 10. At this point, they look as though they'll have to work hard to even match that performance in 2012. Cal currently sits at 13-9 and 1-5 in the conference after being swept by Oregon State at home and dropping two of three at Arizona State. Many of their other 12 wins have come against cupcake-type opponents, including Lehigh, San Francisco, and Nebraska (hey-oh!).

The Bears are led offensively by junior infielder Tony Renda. He's hitting .351 and slugging .479, with a pair of homeruns (tied for team lead) and six doubles. Perhaps the most interesting stat about Renda is this: he has struck out seven times and walked five, which in itself is a pretty good ratio; but if you factor in the fact that in 22 games he has already been hit by a pitch six times, he has actually earned 11 total free passes compared to those seven Ks. Without having actually seen video, it seems implausible that Renda could have been hit by that many pitches without actively looking to take one for the team on inside offerings. So the Texas pitchers will need to be careful about going in on him. Other Bears hitters to watch out for are juniors Mitch Delfino (.338 BA/.500 SLG/.416 OBP) and Darrell Matthews (.320/.373/.361).

At the time of this writing pitching matchups are not yet available, but Cal's Friday starter recently has been Justin Jones. Another junior, the lefty sports a 4.22 ERA after giving up five runs in seven innings of work at ASU last weekend. Opponents are hitting a healthy .289 against him, though he has logged a respectable 18 strikeouts in his 32 innings of work. Cal's best pitcher, though, started on Saturday against Arizona State and picked up the team's only conference win thus far in a tough 3-2 contest. Senior righty Matt Flemer has ben a bulldog for the Golen Bears this season, having already logged 42.1 innings with a very good 2.76 ERA. Opponents hit only .211 against Flemer and he has 25 strikeouts, though he has given up some power numbers: three homeruns, three triples, and five doubles so far. Finally, Cal's Sunday starter last week was sophomore Kyle Porter. Porter struggled mightily in Tempe, lasting only three innings in the Bears' 9-6 loss. His ERA is a worrying 5.40; but Cal's only other pitcher who has started a game at all pitched against Fresno State in a midweek game this week, so the Horns are very likely to face Porter on Sunday in Round Rock.

This will be your open thread for tonight's game, which starts at 7:00 CDT and can be found on the Longhorn Network. Hook 'em!

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