On Friday night, the Cal Baseball team opened up its doors for only the second home series this season, competing against Gonzaga. The Bears entered this game with plenty at stake, as they were looking to turn the season around after dropping four straight games in their last series.
The Bulldogs also had plenty on the line, as they were looking to prevent a three-game losing streak. And in the end, the desperation from Gonzaga proved to be far greater and they ended up winning the matchup with a final score of 5-2.
“There’s some youth and inexperienced fingerprints all over today’s game,” said Cal head coach David Esquer. “But that’s no excuse, their job is to compete when they get out there and embrace the competition between pitcher and hitter.”
The starting pitching by both teams was strong early on, with neither pitcher allowing a run through two innings.
But things began to get ugly for the Bears in top of the third, as Cal starter Tanner Dodson’s control began to fade. The inning started off with a single down the middle from Patrick Chung, who eventually advanced to second base after a bunt from Jake Roberts. This bunt was laid perfectly out in front of the plate, with the Bears only possible play being at first base for the first out of the inning.
Daniel Fredrickson advanced Chung to third base in the following at bat, driving the ball down the left side. Sam Brown was eventually able to get Chung in, to give Gonzaga the early one run lead.
The inning didn’t get any easier for the Bears, as the Bulldogs loaded the bases after allowing another hit.
But Dodson remained calm under pressure, found a way to stop the bleeding and wiggled past the next two batters. This came off a strikeout to Tyler Frost for the second out and fly out to Jacobs for the final out of the inning.
The Bears didn’t stay down for long, catching up to the Bulldogs in the bottom of the fourth. Gonzanga’s starting pitcher Eli Morgan made the mistake of throwing an extremely hittable ball over the plate, giving sophomore Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. every opportunity to drive the ball over the right field wall to tie things up.
Still, the Bulldogs didn’t allow this home run to discourage them, and they took the lead once again in the following inning.
The Bulldogs built an attack in the top of the fifth, putting runners on first and second with no outs. The pressure on Dodson’s back proved too much to handle, and he gave up a dreaded balk to allow the runners to advance. All of this concluded with the Bulldogs taking a 2-1 lead after Brown hit the ball towards the shortstop.
Down a run, the opportunities for the Bears began to dwindle as the game continued. They pulled everything from their playbook in the bottom of the fifth, advancing runners into scoring position after a double steal to second and third. Freshman Andrew Vaughn stepped up to the plate with one out — only a hit away from tying the game.
But the Bears’ brilliant base running was overshadowed by an error that came shortly after. Freshman Anthony Walters made the rookie mistake of forgetting to tag second base after a fly out from Vaughn, forcing himself to return to second to avoid being doubled up.
The arm of Gonzaga’s center fielder, however, was just that much quicker and tagged Walters out to complete the rare 8-6-4 double play.
This proved to be Cal’s last real opportunity to even up the score, and it was outplayed for the rest of the game. The Bears eventually lost the opening matchup 5-2, and they must play smarter this weekend if they want any shot of winning the home series.
“We’re going to have to stay positive in the face of some adversity,” Esquer said. “We just can’t afford the morale of the team to go south, regardless of what happens.”
Alex Quintana covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].