The Cal baseball team had something to prove this weekend.
The Bears dropped their first three Pac-12 series of the season, but feasted on bottom-dwellers Washington and Utah the past two weekends.
This weekend at PK Park in Eugene, Ore., Cal wanted to establish it could hang with the big guns of the conference and emerge from the depths of the Pac-12 standings.
No. 10 Oregon, Cal’s first ranked opponent in almost three weeks, outed the Bears as a middling squad. The Ducks (30-13, 14-7 in the Pac-12) issued a clean sweep, backing Cal (23-18, 7-11) into a corner if it wants to keep its playoff chances alive. The Bears have just 13 games left to make their surge, nine of which are against teams currently ranked in the top-15 nationally.
All three defeats were painful, but Sunday’s 7-1 smackdown was arguably the most agonizing.
On the heels of Saturday’s 3-2 defeat, Cal didn’t show up on getaway day. The winning run was scored in the first inning off Cal starter Justin Jones when Kyle Garlick smacked a two-out single to score two runs. Garwick was a perfect 3-for-3 on the day with three RBIs and one run scored.
Jones settled into a groove until the fourth inning, when a single, an error, a bunt and a walk loaded the bases. Jones managed a strikeout, but followed up with a wild pitch to plate a run.
Oregon tacked on another two runs on a single by Aaron Payne, who torched Cal for three hits and three RBIs from the leadoff spot.
The first-place Ducks scored a run in each of the next two innings, while the Bears managed just one all game – a bases-loaded walk by Mitch Delfino in the top of the eighth.
Despite the six-run differential, Cal matched Oregon’s 10 hits. The Bears simply could not turn those hits into runs.
With one out in the fifth inning, Cal scrapped together three singles to load the bases. Outfielder Danny Oh was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice and Andrew Knapp flied out to end the threat.
After walking in their lone run of the game, Cal still had the bases juiced with no outs in the eighth inning, but a flyout and double play got Oregon out of the inning. The Bears stranded a total of nine runners in the game.
Oregon starter Jeff Gold entered the contest with a 4.32 ERA, a significantly higher mark than his fellow Ducks’ weekend starters, who had ERAs near two. Gold kept up with his teammates, giving up just one run in seven innings of work and striking out two for the win.
Jones, meanwhile, pitched five innings and gave up six runs, three of which were earned, to fall to 3-6 on the year. The bullpen, however, had a strong showing on Sunday, giving up just one run and just two hits.
The bullpen proved costly in Friday’s loss, when reliever Logan Scott coughed up three runs in the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie and give Oregon a 4-1 victory.
On Saturday, coach David Esquer barely touched the relievers with workhorse Matt Flemer going seven solid innings. Flemer gave up just two earned runs, but was tagged with his third loss of the year on Payne’s seventh-inning RBI single to decide the game.