Since UVa is playing the Cal Bears again for the second time in four days, I decided to mix in some question and answers with SBNation's Cal Golden Blogs again as we did leading up to Sundays game. I sent them some answers to questions that they had and you can read those here.
The 'Hoos begin their run to the championship out of the loser's bracket tonight at 7 EST against Cal on ESPN. Remember, if the 'Hoos win today they have to beat South Carolina two times to advance to next week's championship series.
Here are the questions we had with the great guys over at Cal Golden Blogs...
1) Didn't get to watch the game (work sucks) but it seemed like you guys handled Texas A&M fairly easily. Would you say so?
OhioBear: I wouldn't call it "easy." Wacha (TAMU's starting pitching) was good and he held us down for the first four innings without much trouble. But we were able to rally from a 1-0 deficit with some timely hits and by taking advantage of defensive lapses by TAMU. Coming through with runners in scoring position, especially with two out, was a big key to building the 6-1 lead. We got a little nervous when TAMU pulled to within 6-3, but an insurance run and great door-slamming by our closer Matt Flemer eased our tension.
NorCalNick: I would guess that many Cal fans were pretty worried after Wacha rolled through the first four innings, and there were some nervous moments in the bottom of the 6th, but it was a pretty good win for us.
2) I did see you guys had a freshman pitch on Tues. Were you expecting that kindof outing from him?
NorCalNick: You never know what to expect from a freshman with such limited experience starting on the season, but we certainly knew he was capable of that type of performance. His stuff has been plenty good enough to get batters out in relief appearances, but you always worry that bullpen success won't necessarily transfer to starting success. Certainly his performance against Baylor made everybody more confident, but it's great that evidently that performance wasn't a fluke.
OhioBear: Actually, I think a lot of us did. Kyle Porter was lights out in the regionals and had an ERA under 2.00 coming into the game. Frankly, Kyle has sort of lulled us into the belief that he is that kind of good.
3) Just saw Cal will be putting Dixon Anderson on the mound tomorrow night. Whats this kid got?
NorCalNick: Anderson is a bit of an enigma. He's got the physical tools that excite pro scouts - ideal size, plenty of velocity, potentially solid secondary pitches . . . and yet the results haven't always been there, particularly this season. To give you an idea of his projected talent, he was drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 draft as a draft-eligible sophomore. And despite his ups and downs as a junior he still got picked in the 9th round this year.
His issue isn't control, at least in the traditional walk-to-strike-outs sense. When he's off he's hittable, and he
doesn't necessarily have the strike out stuff to get out of jams. This all sounds pessimistic, but it's not entirely fair.
Anderson hasn't been bad this season, but he hasn't lived up to the high expectations fans had entering the year. He absolutely has the physical tools to pitch well against any team - he's shown that at various points in his Cal career. Will that be the case on Thursday? Cal fans are all hoping so.
OhioBear: He's a big right-hander -- he goes 6'6". He throws hard and will mix in a splitter and curve. He's only thrown 67 innings in 13 starts, he's not one to go deep into games. Cal's bullpen needs to be ready.
4) What is it going to take to get Tony Renda out of the lineup? Bubonic Plague? Amputated leg? (Renda tweaked his hamstring before the NCAA tournament and looked like he did again in the UVa game on Sunday)
NorCalNick: The plague might be rough, but we've been developing technology to help deal with leg problems:
OhioBear: I think you're actually going to have amputate his leg to keep him out of the lineup. And even if you did that, he might go find a prosthesis, tape it on, and scribble his name back in the lineup.
5) What would you say was the big difference maker in our game on Sunday and your game vs. A&M on Tuesday?
OhioBear: Quite simply, it was Hultzen. That guy is good. Cal really couldn't touch him on Sunday. Conversely on Tuesday against TAMU, though Wacha is a good pitcher and very well could be a top-10 pick in next year's MLB draft, he was not as good as Hultzen, pure and simple.
NorCalNick: 100% agree with Ohio Bear, though I wonder how much A&M's defensive miscues played in to Wacha's struggles. It's not like Cal wasn't hitting him hard, but he sure did look dominant until his defense let him down in the 5th inning, and from that point on he was leaving pitches up and didn't seem to fool anybody. Evidently Cal's hitters got a firm talking-to after the 4th, so maybe a change in their plate approach was the difference, but those errors seemed huge at the time.
6) I'll just assume you would pick Cal to win Thurs night like I would pick UVa. Do you think they have what it takes to knock off USC twice and advance?
OhioBear: At this point, I can't say that we don't. This team keeps coming off the deck. If we can somehow knock out Virginia, anything is possible. And, practically speaking, we have enough pitching depth to be able to stay in the games and hang with USC.
NorCalNick: At this point I'm not sure if any team should be confident against USC. 13 straight playoff wins? That's just wrong. I'd be much more confident if Justin Jones was available. Without him Cal's pitching depth, their strength all season, isn't nearly as impressive. Even if the Bears manage to beat Virginia, then USC once
behind (presumably) Erik Johnson they'll have to come back with Kyle Porter on short rest a day later. Is it all possible? Yes. But not probable. And yet I still wouldn't put it past them.