Bears jump on Tigers early in nonconference finale

The last time David Esquer made this many substitutions, the Cal baseball team was mired in an 8-0 hole after six innings at Stanford.

Tuesday afternoon’s 9-2 win at Pacific was nearly a complete 180 — the Bears were already up 8-2 after three. Backed by left fielder Austin Booker’s career day and midweek starter Kevin Miller’s two-run outing, Cal’s head coach had the luxury of swapping out first base after five frames, tacking on two more fielding changes for the ninth.

Booker singled into center to open the Bears’ (31-18) final nonconference match-up of the regular season. After starting off his 4-for-4 performance, he rounded the bases before his teammates could connect. The senior quickly stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and took home on a passed ball.

From there on, the sound of metal on spherical leather kept ringing out at Klein Family Field, finally ending to the tune of 15 hits. Right fielder Chad Bunting cracked a 1-0 pitch over left field to cap a four-run first inning. Booker homered to right center two at-bats into the next frame, his second collegiate home run. Four different Bears reeled off consecutive singles in the third to score three more runs.

Second baseman Tony Renda, 2-for-5 with two runs in Stockton, Calif., tripled in the sixth and swung around to home plate on an error at center field, completing Cal’s highest run total since its 17-7 win in Arizona back on April 10.

The Bears’ gluttony at the plate gave Miller ample room to work. The 6-foot, 207-pound senior retired the side to start the game, but allowed four of his six hits in the second and third innings to give the Tigers their only two runs of the day. Miller quickly eased back into a groove after that, going three up, three down through the sixth. He finished with seven strikeouts in seven frames.

Pacific (16-35) deployed six different pitchers, and only two lasted more than one inning. Three managed to strike out one batter, and all but one — junior righty John Prato Matthews in the ninth — allowed a hit.

The Bears close the regular season with a home series against Stanford this weekend. Friday’s 2:30 opener will be followed by a noon doubleheader on Saturday.

Jack Wang covers baseball.