Jones’ wild streak costs Bears in first loss

Jan Flatley-Feldman/File

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Fielding had been one of the question marks for the Cal baseball team going into this weekend, and the Bears committed three more errors on Friday night against Long Beach State.

Surprisingly, what really cost Cal (3-1) was its pitching as coach David Esquer’s club suffered its first loss of the season, 7-4, in Long Beach, Calif.

With the score knotted at one in the third inning at Blair Field, preseason All-American Justin Jones completely lost his command.

Jones walked first baseman Jeff Yamaguchi to open the frame but got two quick outs and had a full count on second baseman Jeff McNeil.

That’s when things started to unravel.

The lefty hit McNeil, and two wild pitches led Yamaguchi to score and McNeil to advance to third. Jones walked the next batter and put him on second base with another wild pitch.

Designated hitter Ino Patron made Jones pay, singling up the middle to drive in the two runs and giving the Dirtbags (3-2) a 4-1 lead.

Later in the inning with two runners on, Jones hit yet another batter to load the bases. A popup ended the inning, but the pitcher from Oakdale, Calif., watched the rest of the game from the dugout.

Down 5-2 in the top of the sixth, the Bears pulled within one when right fielder Danny Oh went deep to right for a two-run shot. Oh’s second home run of the season knocked starting pitcher Shawn Stuart out of the game, but the Long Beach State bullpen locked down Cal’s lineup for the rest of the game.

Second baseman Tony Renda, who drove in Cal’s first run of the game, also cost the Bears a run. A throwing error on a ground ball allowed McNeil to score in the bottom of the sixth to push the Dirtbags’ lead to two. Renda, another preseason All-American, uncharacteristically had two errors on the night.

Long Beach State scrapped together another run in the seventh to put the game out of reach.

Jones was tagged with his first loss of the young season, while Stuart earned the win. The teams clash again on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. for the second game of a three-game series.