Cal baseball entered the three-game weekend series against No. 23 Oregon Ducks on a hot streak, winning five of its last six games and most recently enforcing the mercy rule Tuesday night after beating USF 17-3.
Sophomore Christian Becerra took the mound for the Bears while junior Jace Stoffal started for the Ducks. Both starters last pitched April 14, with Becerra getting his first win of the season against Utah and Stoffal pitching a complete game shutout against Stanford.
Both pitchers started the game off with a 1-2-3 inning, but the Bears drew first blood in the bottom of the second frame off an RBI double by Nathan Manning that scored first baseman Peyton Schulze, who singled earlier. Manning’s double marked the first run scored against Stoffal in April.
The Ducks responded by piling two runs in the top of the third inning against Becerra.
The sophomore pitcher continued to struggle, giving up a pair of home runs to left fielder Tanner Smith in the top of the fourth inning and to center fielder Colby Shade in the fifth. The Ducks led 4-1 by the end of the fifth inning.
Meanwhile, Stoffal silenced the Bears’ bats, only giving up three walks from the third through sixth innings.
Cal’s offense finally woke up in the bottom of the seventh inning with a lead-off single by shortstop Carson Crawford, who later scored on another RBI double by Manning.
The next at-bat, designated hitter Dom Souto drove in Manning with an RBI single. After a sacrifice bunt by sophomore second baseman Jack Johnston advanced Souto to second, third baseman Max Handron tied the game with an RBI single. The inning would end after catcher Caleb Lomavita grounded into a double play.
This stalemate was short lived, as the Ducks retook the lead in the top of the eighth inning after a throwing error scored shortstop Drew Cowley, giving Oregon a 5-4 advantage.
The starting matchup for Saturday’s game featured junior Paulshawn Pasqualotto on the mound for the Bears, while junior Logan Mercado went up for the Ducks.
Cal once again started the scoring after Manning walked with the bases loaded. Souto then hit a double to score two more runs to give the Bears a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Lomavita hit a double through the left side, clearing the loaded bases and scoring three to give the Bears a 6-2 lead.
That lead would evaporate in the top of the sixth inning, as Ducks’ designated hitter Anson Aroz hit a two-run home run off fifth-year Daniel Colwell, and a throwing error by Lomavita scored two more runs to tie the game 6-6.
Crawford’s go-ahead two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning lifted the Bears over the Ducks 8-6, giving senior Matt Lozovoy the win while freshman Grayson Grinsell took the loss.
The series decider saw sophomore Connor Sullivan taking the starting role for the Bears, while freshman Matthew Grabmann took the mound for the Ducks.
This time, it was Oregon that started the scoring after a throwing error by Handron allowed Cowley to score in the top of the first inning.
The Ducks’ catcher Bennett Thompson extended the Oregon lead to 3-0 with a two-run double in the top of the fourth inning. He later scored on a throwing error by Schulze.
The Bear’s defense continued to struggle as the Ducks scored three of their four runs off fielding errors. For the third day in a row, Cal’s defensive errors allowed the Ducks to either tie the game or score the go-ahead runs. To make matters worse for Cal, Handron had to be taken out of the game due to a stomach illness.
Head coach Mike Neu said that the same problem ruled Souto out from Sunday’s starting lineup. He is hopeful that the two players will be ready for Tuesday’s nonconference game at Stanford.
The Ducks’ four-run ninth inning sealed the Bears’ loss as Oregon won the game 9-3 and got the series win.
“I simply didn’t play well enough,” Lomavita said. “We could have won if we were on top of our game. We know what we need to improve on, and this series proves we can beat these strong teams if we fill in these basic holes.”
The Bears look forward as they head to Stanford for a nonconference matchup Tuesday, followed by a weekend series at Pittsburgh.