Wildcats trying to stay hot as struggling Cal team comes to town
After sweeping their first series of the season last weekend, the Northwestern Wildcats (13-34, 5-16 Big Ten) head into a four-game series against the California Golden Bears with some confidence. The ‘Cats sweep against Purdue was their first series win all season.
The Bears (25-18, 11-13 Pac 12) started the season strong, but have struggled lately, losing 10 of their last 16 games. Going into last weekend’s series at Stanford, the Bears were the no. 24 team in the country, but after dropping two out of three to their cross-bay rival, they are no longer ranked this week.
This series has a unique format, running from Saturday through Monday with a double-header on Sunday. Since the series is four-games long, both teams will have to use an extra starter in the Monday game. Neither team has announced their Monday pitcher yet.
The Bears’ best pitcher this year is Daulton Jefferies, but he’s been sidelined with a shoulder problem since April 1st. Jefferies was 6-0 in six starts with a 1.29 ERA, and Cal was 15-6 when he was healthy. Jefferies is projected to be a first round MLB draft pick in the summer. He could return in a limited capacity this weekend, according to SF Gate.
With Jefferies out, senior Ryan Mason has taken over the no. 1 pitcher duties and has performed quite well. He has a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts, while holding opponents to a 2.56 batting average. He also threw a ball though a moving tube last week, which showed off his impressive accuracy.
The Wildcats have struggled to find success on the mound all season, but sophomore Tommy Bordignon was surprisingly effective in 5.1 scoreless innings against Purdue last Sunday. That was his longest and best outing of the year, and he earned another turn in the rotation in the second half of Sunday’s doubleheader.
At the plate for the Bears, sophomore catcher Brett Cumberland leads the team in almost every major offensive category. He also leads the Pac 12 with 12 home runs on the year, a significant improvement on his seven homers last season.
For Northwestern, Joe Hoscheit has been red-hot lately, hitting .350 with four home runs in his last 17 games. He and .370-hitter Matt Hopfner now make up a threatening 3-4 combination in the middle of the ‘Cats lineup.
Game 1: Saturday at 2 p.m.
Cal: RHP Ryan Mason (6-2, 2.69 ERA)
NU: LHP Reed Mason (3-6, 3.68 ERA)
Game 2: Sunday at 11 a.m.
Cal: LHP Matt Ladrech (3-4, 4.28 ERA)
NU: RHP Joe Schindler (1-1, 3.81 ERA)
Game 3: Sunday at 2 p.m.
Cal: RHP Tanner Dodson (2-4, 3.00 ERA)
NU: RHP Tommy Bordignon (2-3, 4.15 ERA)
Game 4: Monday at 3 p.m.