There’s no substitute for being at a college baseball game in person, both as a fan and a member of the media. You can see the entire field at all times, you can hear some of the field and dugout chatter, and it’s easier to stay locked in to what is going on on the field. Plus, they sell hot dogs.
But, being everywhere just isn’t possible, and sometimes, you’re stuck watching on the couch. Thankfully, there’s never been a better time to follow college baseball from your living room. With all of the streaming options available and ESPN’s unprecedented support of the sport across all of its platforms, there are few days during the course of the season where there isn’t at least one game available for viewing from home.
With that in mind, the Couch Surfing series is born here at College Baseball Central, reserved for notes, thoughts, and analysis on games that we took in from the comfort of our own homes, tasty beverage in hand.
Today’s edition covers the Thursday night series opener between Texas and California in Austin.
The Bears came away with a 4-1 win over the Longhorns, thanks in large part to starting pitcher Jeff Bain, who was making his first start of the season. The sophomore righty threw 6.1 innings, giving up three hits and no runs with two walks (both in the seventh inning, leading to his removal from the game) and five strikeouts.
Here are some quick thoughts on the Bears’ win over the Longhorns on Thursday night.
- It was a big ask for Texas freshman Nolan Kingham to go out and shut down a veteran Cal offense, but I think the Texas staff would have liked to get a little more out of him on this night. In four innings, he gave up eight hits and two earned runs with one walk and one strikeout. He struggled with command, and the Bears hitters really made him pay when he came over the plate. Few, if any, of the Cal hits off of him were cheap. He deserves a lot of credit for continuing to battle even when things weren’t going well, though. Double plays ended a Cal threat in the second and limited the damage to two runs in the third, and a big strikeout against leadoff hitter Aaron Knapp in the fourth left two Bears runners on base. It would have been easy for him to fold up and allow the flood gates to open in those long innings, but he didn’t let that happen.
- Speaking of the Cal offense, they appear to be a much more mature group, both physically and in terms of their approach, this year. Last year, they had a small core of guys that really made them go, but they also had some soft spots in the order. It’s still early in the season, but that does not appear to be the case this time around. Everyone contributed on Thursday night. All nine spots in the order had a hit by the end of the fifth inning. This is the type of lineup that leads to a lot of high-stress pitches for a starting pitcher.
- Cal starter Jeff Bain doesn’t run his fastball up to 97 miles per hour, but he sure pitches like it. For one, he used an elevated fastball very effectively, getting several swings and misses for strikeouts on the pitch. When coupled with his changeup (that he also threw well), that fastball around the letters had to look a lot faster than 88-90 miles per hour. Also, the way he carries himself on the mound is reminiscent of a guy who throws smoke. He really came after Texas hitters, and at several points of the night, looked in toward the plate with a look that seemed to dare the Longhorns to make solid contact off of him.
- Travis Duke and Eric Dunbar, as a duo, deserve credit for settling things down in the later innings and giving the Longhorns the chance to come back. We’ve long known how effective Duke is out of the bullpen, but this was our first extended look at the redshirt sophomore Dunbar, a transfer from Louisiana Tech. The righty threw three nearly-perfect innings, with a hit batter being the only baserunner against him. He didn’t come in with any sort of overpowering stuff, but he featured a really nice changeup that kept Cal hitters out in front during his outing. After the success that the Bears lineup had early in the game, Dunbar’s appearance sure makes it look like Augie Garrido and Skip Johnson have yet another reliable reliever at their disposal in the bullpen.
- Kacy Clemens launched a solo homer in the seventh inning, and that has to be a sight for sore eyes for Texas. With Patrick Mathis out thanks to a hamstring injury he picked up last weekend against Stanford, there were questions about where power would come from for the time being. Perhaps Clemens can help pick up that slack until Mathis is back in the lineup.
- Cal closer Erik Martinez is a tough customer. Across five appearances, he now has 11 strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work, to go along with three saves. He comes at hitters from a low three-quarters angle, and as is often the case with those types of pitchers, he doesn’t throw anything straight. He also features that traditional closer’s mentality, as he comes right after hitters and challenges them.