For a team fighting for survival, losing two out of three is a massive disappointment. The only consolation is that the opponent was the second-best team in the country.
The Bears (24-17, 10-11) could not get their bats going against the talented Stanford arms last weekend, dropping their first Pac-12 series in five weeks to the No. 2 Cardinal (33-6, 14-4).
Facing the team with the lowest ERA in the conference, the Bears mustered only seven runs on the weekend.
As has been the story recently, the production has come from the 3-4 combo in the heart of the order. Junior Jonah Davis hit out a pair of solo jacks and sophomore Andrew Vaughn added his team-leading 19th home run — good for second-most in the nation.
“We just didn’t have a lot of production from the bottom of our order,” said Cal head coach Mike Neu.
Adding to the Bears’ lack of offense was an injury to junior Jeffrey Mitchell, Jr., Cal’s typical five-hole hitter. He is still recovering from a punctured lung that was sustained last weekend on a catch up against the wall.
For the runs that Cal managed to muster, a majority came in the Thursday opener. The Bears clawed back from a 3-0 deficit against Stanford’s freshman pitcher Brendan Beck — who owns the lowest ERA in the Pac-12 — and squeaked out a one-run win, 4-3.
The Bears could not get to Cardinal junior Tristan Beck, Brendan Beck’s older brother, in game two after a Cardinal 10-spot in the second inning put the game out of reach early.
The last game of the series featured more stellar action from Stanford pitching, as junior Kris Bubic held Cal to just one run over 5.1 IP.
“We faced two potential first-round draft picks — those two pitchers they had on Friday and Saturday,” Neu said. “You know you’re going to be in for a tough battle whenever you face those type of guys.”
The Bears’ only win came in their sloppiest game on the field. A pair of Cal errors with two outs led to three Cardinal runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Cal got going in the very next inning, however, when Vaughn and Davis hit back-to-back home runs to tie the game. Junior Tyrus Greene drew a leadoff walk and was chauffeured home on Vaughn’s blast down the left field line.
Junior Tanner Dodson did all he could to ensure the victory, giving the Bears a 4-3 lead with an RBI single in the seventh. Subsequently, Dodson closed the game with two scoreless innings for his 10th save of the year.
Senior Matt Ladrech (6-3) picked up his sixth win of the year with six strong innings against the Cardinal, giving up no earned runs.
This game was all Stanford.
Fourteen men came to the plate in a ten-run second inning, with nine runs charged to Cal sophomore starter Jared Horn (5-5).
Stanford’s elder Beck brother (6-2) held the Bears to just four singles through six strong innings for the victory.
Freshman Darren Baker drove in the only Cal run of the game on an RBI single in the sixth.
Cardinal freshman Carson Rudd and senior John Henry Styles combined for three hitless innings to end the game, 14-1.
Stanford continued its great pitching and gave Cal a taste of its own medicine in the long ball category — sending two over the fence — to take the game, 5-2.
Junior Aaron Shortridge (2-2) gave up a pair of two-run shots, with one in the third and one in the fifth. A triple and a wild pitch accounted for another run in the fourth.
The Bears could not climb back from the 5-0 hole. Freshman Sam Wezniak put the Bears on the board with an RBI single in the sixth and Davis went deep in the eighth to pull Cal within three, but their two swings were not nearly enough.
Bubic (6-0) remained undefeated for the Cardinal after an impressive performance, giving up one earned run over 5.1 IP with seven strikeouts.
“We had a little bit of a letdown offensively and probably on the mound against a really good team, and when that happens, they’re going to take advantage of that,” Neu said.