The gloom finally lifted Sunday over Evans Diamond, but the sun did nothing to brighten Cal’s play as the Bears fell to their fourth straight defeat.
In losing 13-5 to Oregon State — the final nail in an embarrassing home sweep — Cal (11-7, 0-3 in the Pac-12) looked everything it should not. An undeniably talented squad, the Bears gifted their opponent runs with mistakes on defense, were overeager at the plate and couldn’t prevent the No. 25 Beavers from spraying line drives all over the field.
Continuing the pattern established in the first two games, Cal granted Oregon State (14-5, 3-0) a run in the first inning through defensive ineptitude. With a runner on second and two outs, starter Kyle Porter (0-1) induced a weak popup to the right side of the infield. But second baseman Tony Renda and first baseman Andrew Knapp failed to communicate, almost colliding as the ball clanked off the heel of Knapp’s glove and trickled towards the pitcher’s mound as the runner scored.
“(Oregon State) definitely played solid but quite honestly we helped them along the way quite a bit, especially when you try to turn the tide and then you drop a popup in the first inning to give them more of the same,” said head coach David Esquer. “Yesterday they had two runs on no hits to start the game and today they start with one run on no hits.
“You know, I’d like to play games like that.”
Defensive miscues — Cal had three errors on the day — also cost the Bears in the sixth, when mistakes on consecutive suicide squeezes allowed Oregon State to extend the inning and score three extra runs.
But the Beavers didn’t rely on the Bears’ generosity. They took Cal’s pitchers to the cleaners, pounding out all 17 hits of their hits on sharply hit balls. Shortstop Tyler Smith and left fielder Michael Conforto, menaces to Cal throughout the weekend, led the way for Oregon State on Sunday: Smith went 3-for-5 with three runs scored and an RBI, and Conforto hit 3-for-5 while driving in six.
Faced with large deficits each time they came to the plate, Cal’s batters often looked like they were trying to win the game with a single swing. Outside of center fielder Chad Bunting’s monstrous homer, the Bears succumbed all too often to weak popups and grounders as they took ferocious cuts at pitches.
And when the Bears did have the opportunity to break through, they couldn’t quite seize it. They left the bases loaded in the second and stranded runners on second and third on two other occasions.
“We had the same opportunities they did and we just didn’t come through and they did,” Esquer said. “My hat’s off to them, they played hungry.”
Cal will try to stop the slide on Tuesday when it takes on University of San Francisco.
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