One day after spotting Baylor a 6-0 lead in three frames, the Cal baseball team generously handed Alcorn State four second-inning runs Saturday afternoon. Luckily for the Bears, the Braves more than returned the favor, handing coach David Esquer his second postseason win at Cal and first since 2001.
“We don’t do it easy,” Esquer said. “This was typical Cal baseball for us.”
Righty Troy Williams started at Houston’s Reckling Park for the Mississippi school of 3,600, taking the 10-6 loss after being battered for five hits in the third. The outburst resulted in 6-4 Cal lead, but not without some help from the Braves — only two runs were earned.
Vince Bruno led off the third inning with a single, followed by left fielder Austin Booker’s fly out to right field. With one runner on base, second baseman and Pac-10 Player of the Year Tony Renda singled the Bears into scoring position, while catcher Chadd Krist doubled in Cal’s first two runs of the game.
Williams walked a batter after forcing a groundout, and looked like he got out of the inning when Mitch Delfino sent a grounder down the left side. But the ball rolled past third baseman Antolin Morales, scoring Krist and putting runners on the corners. Consecutive doubles gave Cal a 6-4 lead.
“I think their pitcher got a little fatigued and we were able to hit his off-speed like we weren’t able to the first few innings,” said right fielder Chad Bunting, who went 1-for-3 with a two-RBI double.
But it was a messy affair for both sides, with Cal’s Kevin Miller getting shelled for six hits following a three up, three down first inning. Miller, who has been arguably the Bears’ most valuable pitcher, got the quick hook with two outs left in the second, forcing sophomore Justin Jones — who would have started on Sunday — onto the hill with the season on the line.
“He just couldn’t stop them,” Esquer said. “We went with Justin. With no tomorrow, we’re gonna fire all our bullets now or never.”
The lefty two-hit the Braves in a gem of a showing, retiring 10 batters through one stretch and striking out 10 through 6 1/3 innings of relief.
“I was prepared,” Jones said. “I’m like a little kid, I just love to pitch. Every game, even if I’m not up, I’m ready to pitch.”
Alcorn State’s senior lefty Brent Blaum, who entered the game with a 9.68 ERA, quieted the Bears in 4 1/3 innings of shutout relief, walking and striking out two while allowing a pair of hits. Things went awry after he left, as Cole Vicars — the usual starting second baseman who spots as the team’s No. 3 pitcher — walked three in two innings for three earned runs. Back-to-back errors helped Cal cap its tally at 10.
The Bears will play the loser of the Rice-Baylor matchup tomorrow. Junior Dixon Anderson may get the start in what could be a pitching platoon. Relievers Kyle Porter and Logan Scott, who pitched against Baylor on Friday, will likely also see the mound.
“We’re trying to play to win the tournament, not just survive,” Esquer said.
Jack Wang covers baseball.