Shoddy defense has cost the Cal baseball team dearly this season. On Saturday, it was the defense that secured the Bears’ first conference victory in a 3-2 over No. 14 Arizona State.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Joey DeMichele blasted a line drive to center field. As it neared the 395 sign at Packard Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., center fielder Chad Bunting hesitated at first but made the catch to end the game and preserve the win.
Closer Logan Scott struggled in the ninth inning, giving up two singles to put runners on the corners. With two outs, Scott walked shortstop Deven Marrero, who was 0-for-4, to set up the duel with DeMichele, a dangerous .370 hitter who leads the Pac-12 in triples.
Cal (13-8, 1-4 in the Pac-12) scored a run in each of the first two innings, both set up by errors by freshman third baseman Drew Stankiewicz. In the first inning, Stankiewicz’s blunder let Tony Renda reach base with two outs. Renda, hitting third instead of leadoff this weekend, stole second. An RBI single by first baseman Andrew Knapp put the Bears on the board.
The next time a ball came to Stankiewicz, he again committed an error, this time letting Chris Paul get to first. Danny Oh doubled to put Paul on third, and designated hitter Vince Bruno hit a sacrifice fly to bring Cal’s tally to 2-0.
Despite the two runs, Sun Devils starter Trevor Williams didn’t give up an earned run until the sixth inning when catcher Chadd Krist knocked a ball over the left field fence. The right-handed Williams went 8 2/3 innings for Arizona State (14-8, 2-4), giving up just four hits and fanning three.
Krist’s homer seemed inconsequential at the time, putting the Bears’ up by three, but it turned out to be the winning run.
Matt Flemer kept pace with Williams for much of the game. The senior righty retired each batter the first time through the lineup, giving up his first hit in the fourth inning.
Flemer dealt six strong innings, but the wheels came off in the seventh inning. The El Cerrito, Calif., native yielded three of his total five hits in the stanza, none bigger than a bases-loaded double by Stankiewicz.
With his bat, Stankiewicz literally got back the two runs he gave away with his glove, but it wasn’t enough to get the win. Reliever Joey Donofrio came in for Flemer and got two popouts to stop the bleeding and keep the one-run lead. The senior from Los Gatos, Calif., went 1 1/3 innings and struck out the last two batters he faced before handing the ball to Scott with two outs in the eighth.
The Bears and Sun Devils will play the rubber game of the three-game series on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Packard Stadium.