Cal continues late-season slide in loss to UCLA

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Last Saturday against Arizona, starting pitcher Matt Flemer gave up three runs in the first inning, and the Cal baseball team lost, 4-1.

On Friday afternoon, the right-handed senior made it through the first inning against No. 11 UCLA in his final start at Evans Diamond.

Unfortunately for the Bears (26-23, 9-16 in the Pac-12), the big inning came just a frame later. The Bruins (37-13, 16-9) put up five runs in the second en route to a 7-2 thumping to open the series. Cal now has five games remaining in the season, likely needing four wins to enter the conversation for a postseason berth.

Flemer gave up a single to open the disastrous inning, and third baseman Derek Campbell bobbled a bunt to put two runners on with no outs. Another bunt advanced the runners for first baseman Cody Regis, who scorched a ball off the wall in right center for a triple to score both runs.

UCLA then just sprayed the field with little knocks that fell for hits. By the time the dust had settled, the Bruins had a 5-0 advantage.

“You just can’t play that sloppy and beat a Regional team,” said Cal coach David Esquer. “Unfortunately, we played that way behind our best pitcher and a pitcher that’s pitched his heart and soul for us all year.

“We played lousy.”

That cringe-worthy play continued into the top of the third inning. Poor positioning by right fielder Andrew Knapp led to consecutive singles to open the frame.

It looked like Cal might have caught a break when lead runner Trevor Brown got caught in a rundown, but freshman shortstop Brendan Farney hit him with his throw, allowing both runners to advance. Flemer’s wild pitch scored Brown, and a sacrifice fly brought another home to extend the lead to 7-0.

At that point, the game was all but over. Flemer kept the Bruins off the board through his next four innings, but the offense couldn’t muster up a comeback.

UCLA pitcher Adam Plutko had no problem keeping Cal off the scoreboard, throwing 6 1/3 scoreless innings while the Bears stranded eight runners through the first six frames.

It looked like the drought would end in the seventh when Tony Renda walked to load the bases with one out. UCLA freshman sidewinder David Berg came in and quickly quelled the threat, getting cleanup hitter Mitch Delfino to ground into an inning-ending double play.

It took the Bears until the ninth inning to cross the plate. Three straight singles — including an RBI knock by red-hot outfielder Danny Oh — started off the frame. An error loaded the bases for Renda, who struck out looking.

With the bases juiced, Delfino crushed a ball deep to left center, nearly to the 365 sign. Left fielder Cody Keefer, who made a spectacular diving catch in the first to rob Knapp, got on his horse and tracked it down. The Bears had to settle for the sacrifice fly, and Knapp struck out with runners on second and third to end the game.

“It’s just one of those things where we’re getting close, we’re getting so close,” Flemer said. “It’s just not falling for us.

“Sometimes you want to win so badly that it just kind of gets to you when certain things don’t go your way.”

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