Cal men’s baseball entered Tuesday in need of a win after dropping several games at the Frisco College Baseball Classic last week.
And win it did, handing the Wildcats their seventh straight loss and 10th this season.
The win was special for head coach Mike Neu, who became the first Cal baseball head coach to ever play against Villanova. With the Bears losing the majority of the games they played at the Frisco Classic this past weekend, Neu believes the win will provide a momentum shift as his team is set to begin competition against Pac-12 opponents in the upcoming weeks.
The Wildcats did not make it easy for the Bears, however, outhitting Cal 10 hits to five, with Villanova senior Jack O’Reilly, junior Cameron Hassert and freshman Collin Quintano all hitting home runs.
On the other hand, the Bears’ offense was only able to get one hit in the first four innings of the game, with a solo home run from fifth year outfielder Kade Kretzschmar off of freshman starting pitcher Graham Moore in the top of the second inning.
In the top of the ninth inning, the Wildcats applied pressure on sophomore pitcher Christian Becerra by getting runners on second and third base with two outs. Despite the late-game rally, Becerra was able to strike out the next batter he faced, ending the game and securing his second save of the season.
“I thought I pitched good but big team game … I thought Andres (Galan) set the tone early,” Becerra said. “Dom (Souto) caught a great game, Mike (Neu) also called a great game… Just picking each other up when we needed to, and I thought the bullpen did great”.
Despite the narrow victory, Neu was pleased with the Cal pitching staff’s performance, citing Hassert’s three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning off of junior Tyler Stasiowski as the only big play the Wildcat’s offense was able to make.
Neu was also impressed with sophomore Caleb Lomavita’s offensive display, hitting two for five with a single in the bottom of the fifth inning, and a three-run home run in the next inning.
“That was a huge home run that we took. The lead in that inning created a little bit of separation where we had a little bit of a lead,” Neu said. “We were ahead eight (to) three and (Lomavita) started that off with that big homer. We end up winning eight (to) six, but those runs we scored carried us to the win.”
Lomavita, who started as catcher for all three games of the Frisco Classic this past weekend, was assigned the designated hitter role to get a break before the upcoming series against the University of Arizona and provide backup catcher Souto a starting position.
While the Bears played well, the Wildcats’ disorganized defense certainly contributed to the outcome. The Wildcats committed four errors and multiple wild pitches that allowed Cal runners to advance and eventually score two unearned runs.
Tuesday night was the first time the two teams played against each other, but in a night of firsts it was also freshman pitchers’ Robert Aivazian and Jack Kirrer’s debuts.
Kirrer entered in the top of the second inning to relieve Galan, going two innings with three strikeouts while only allowing two hits and one earned run with 25 pitches.
Aivazian was brought into the game in the top of the eighth inning for Stasiowski, retiring all the batters he faced with only eight pitches while collecting a strikeout.
The Bears head south to Tucson, Arizona this weekend, where they will play a three-game series against the Arizona Wildcats starting Friday March 10.