It’s the bottom of the third inning, and freshman Arman Sabouri is headed to the mound. A middle reliever by trade, he’s suddenly put in a save-like situation by Cal baseball head coach David Esquer’s “starter by committee” approach to draw the Cardinal off guard — three up, three down and put in a new pitcher before the opposition can get comfortable. Or so was the plan.
Two pitches in, and it looked like he would follow in the footsteps of freshman Rogelio Reyes and sophomore Joey Matulovich — who both threw scoreless frames — by getting ahead in the count 0-2. But he leaves the next one in Matt Winaker’s zone and allows a single. Then another. And then one more. Sabouri allows four runs before he’s pulled after a third of an inning, and Cal trails 5-0 after three. The Bears, despite a convincing attempt in the seventh inning, were unable to come back and lost, 6-4.
In retrospect, Cal might have been better off if Matulovich had pitched until the top of the order. He only needed nine pitches to get out of the first inning, all of which were strikes. Martinez, who had given up nine earned runs over his past 6.2 innings, also went unscathed and implemented three ground ball outs.
Outside of Sabouri’s meltdown, Cal’s pitching staff fared well against the Cardinal’s bats. Junior Zayne Patino, who took over for the ill-fated freshman, struck out five over two and a third. Both junior Andrew Buckley and freshman Andrew Vaughn allowed no hits.
Though the Cal offense was blanked over six innings, its bats came alive against Cardinal pitcher Tyler Thorne with a two-out rally. Back-to-back singles put a runner in scoring position, and pinch hitter Anthony Walters walked to load the bases. Sophomore Jeffrey Mitchell, Jr. showcased his patience at the plate and got Cal on the board with an RBI walk on four pitches. With the bases still juiced, Vaughn lined a single into left field, bringing in another two.
The Bears added another run in the eighth, but their late-inning surge was not enough to topple Stanford at the Farm.
With the loss, Cal will now focus its attention on USC in a much-needed homestand. The Bears hold a 12-6 record at Evans Diamond — worlds better than their horrendous 4-12 record on the road. They will be taking on a Trojans squad that also struggles away from home.
USC comes in a game above .500 and will look to improve upon its 5-7 conference record as Pac-12 play starts to heat up. Led by sophomore Lars Nootbaar, who’s hitting .319/.455/.504 with a conference-leading 30 walks, the Trojans will look to turn around their fortunes against a Cal team that, time and time again, has shown that consistency is not one of its strong suits.
Chris Tril is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]