In its first game since being ranked No. 18 in the nation, the Cal baseball team gave up eight runs in the fifth inning on Monday, losing to Nebraska 9-5.
Cal (11-4) hummed through the first four and a half innings of the last game of the four-game series in Lincoln, Neb. Lefty Michael Theofanopoulus (0-2) had sharp command of all his pitches and the Bears looked to be in the driver’s seat after Tony Renda’s two-run homer staked them to a 2-0 lead.
But the wheels came off in the bottom of the fifth. Theofanopoulus suddenly lost all control of his pitches and Nebraska (10-6) capitalized, batting around as the home team scored eight runs.
After giving up a leadoff single, Cal got the first out of the inning on a sacrifice bunt. But Theofanopoulos walked the next batter and hit another to load the bases. He then walked second baseman Bryan Peters to force in Nebraska’s first run.
Nebraska designated hitter Pat Kelley then opened the floodgates, lining a bases-clearing triple down the right field line to put the Cornhuskers up 4-2. Another Nebraska single followed, driving in the Corhuskers’ fifth run, and chasing Theofanopoulos from the game.
But reliever Trevor Hildenberger had trouble closing the inning. Nebraska scored three more runs on a homer by third baseman Josh Scheffert before the side was retired.
Cal reduced the deficit to three in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by designated hitter Vince Bruno and a two-run single by right fielder Danny Oh, but couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
Nebraska added a gloss to the scoreline with a single run in the seventh.
Cal begins conference play next weekend with a home series against No. 24 Oregon State.