Finally, mercifully, a wild pitch helped put an end to one of the wildest games of the season for the Cal baseball team on Sunday afternoon.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the 14th inning with the game tied 5-5, Cal pinch-hitter John Soteropolus stood at the plate, looking to give the Bears an extra-innings edge. Huskies’ reliever Zach Wright took the option out of Soteropolus’ hands, throwing a pitch wide of the catcher and allowing baserunner Brendan Farney to scoot in to give Cal its only lead of the game.
Reliever Collin Monsour shut Washington down in the bottom of the inning to earn the save in the Bears’ 6-5 win. The win swung the balance of the series into Cal’s hands as the team picked up the final two games of the three-game slate.
At the Husky Ballpark in Seattle, the afternoon began innocently enough for Bears’ starting pitcher Dylan Nelson, who notched a scoreless first inning.
But the wheels flew off the wagon in the bottom of the second as Nelson’s command vanished into thin air. Washington cleanup hitter Michael Camporeale kicked off the inning by lashing a leadoff double through the gap in right-center. First baseman Brian Wolfe promptly singled Camporeale home to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Following an RBI single by Ty Afenir that loaded the bases and put Washington up 2-0, Nelson was pulled in favor of reliever Ryan Wertenburger. Wertenburger couldn’t plug the leak, allowing a bases-clearing 3 RBI triple to Jayce Ray. The score was 5-0 by the end of the inning.
The Bears’ bullpen was flawless for the remainder of the game following the Ray triple. The combination of Wertenburger, Kyle Porter, Logan Scott, Justin Jones and Keaton Siomkin tossed 12.2 scoreless innings to keep the game within reach after Nelson’s second-inning implosion.
Meanwhile, the Bears’ offense crawled back from the tantalizing deficit. Andrew Knapp closed the gap to three runs with a two-RBI single in the top of the third. Shortstop Chris Paul brought Cal within a run in the fourth with a two-run bomb to left field.
Two back-to-back doubles with no outs in the fifth tied the game up at five and offered the Bears a chance to gain the lead, but Huskies’ reliever Tyler Davis settled down and retired the next three hitters in order.
Both Cal and Washington blew key chances in the late innings to take the lead for good. In the top of the eighth, the Bears put runners on the corners with just one out after a Devon Rodriguez single and an error by Huskies second baseman Robert Pehl.
In an ill-fated strategic move, coach David Esquer attempted a safety squeeze bunt with Mitchell Kranson with speedy pinch-runner Sean Peters on third. The squeeze was fielded cleanly by Andrew Ely, and Peters was easily thrown out at the plate. After a Jacob Wark single loaded the bases, Paul grounded out to end the inning.
The Huskies faced a similar situation in the bottom of the 12th with a runner on third with one out. Esquer brought on Eric Walbridge to face the right-handed Braden Bishop, and Walbridge retired Bishop and Afenir to quell the threat.