During last season’s run to the College World Series, the Cal baseball team practiced at Creighton’s home field in Omaha, Neb.
On Tuesday, the Bears finally met their gracious hosts in a sloppy affair at Evans Diamond. Cal (9-2) came away with a 7-5 victory behind a stalwart bullpen and some timely hitting — but the Bears looked like they needed some more practice, setting up three Bluejays’ runs with defensive miscues.
The scorekeeper attributed four errors to Cal. Head coach David Esquer disagreed.
“I think we made six errors, I didn’t think we made four,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty by any stretch.”
Esquer would have tagged one more to baseman Andrew Knapp’s back in the second inning. Nick Judkins hit a ball that Knapp charged near the line, but it skipped off him and toward the Cal dugout. With one run in, Knapp was charged with the error on an errant throw home that allowed another run to score, giving Creighton a 3-1 edge.
Creighton (5-4) again capitalized on the Bears’ missteps in the sixth inning.
Reliever Joey Donofrio tried to pickoff Brad McKewon at second, but lobbed it over Tony Renda’s head. It looked like Donofrio got out of the jam on a ground ball, but Chadd Krist was called for catcher’s interference, putting runners on the corners and extending the inning for Jake Peter.
With a 1-2 count, Donofrio went to his slider but fired it into the dirt and it squirted away from Krist, allowing McKewon to tie the game at five. One pitch later, Donofrio fanned Peter to end the inning.
But after that strange sequence, Donofrio locked in. Only one more runner got aboard during Donofrio’s 2.2 inning outing in which he struck out three and earned his first win of the year.
“Joey Donofrio won the game for us with his outing,” Esquer said. “He came in there and he stemmed the tide for us and gave us a chance to put our feet on the ground.”
Fortunately for the senior reliever, the Bears got a lucky bounce in the seventh. Vince Bruno’s grounder took a wild hop over Creighton shortstop Alex Staehely’s head, driving in Krist and breaking the tie. Krist, who went 3-for-5, got his second RBI single in the eighth inning to put up the game’s final run.
That two-run cushion became increasingly important in the ninth inning. After two quick outs, Creighton scrapped together back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners. Closer Logan Scott quickly quelled the threat, getting a flyout to end the inning and register the save.
For all of Cal’s defensive woes, the offense largely sustained its momentum from last weekend’s obliteration of Lehigh’s abysmal pitching, managing 14 hits on Tuesday.
The most spectacular knock came in the third inning when the ball went screaming off center fielder Chad Bunting’s bat and landed on top of the Recreational Sports Facility, easily clearly the left field fence. The two-run blast gave Cal its first lead of the day, 4-3.
“It was a fastball, little up and in, but I got my foot down early,” Bunting said. “I was able to get my hands inside and keep them there.”