Cal can’t clean up act in losses to Dirtbags

On Saturday, the winning run crossed the plate in the top of the 10th inning as the Cal baseball team escaped with a 2-1 victory over Long Beach State.

On Sunday, that run was scored in the second inning in what became another pitcher’s duel between the two squads at Klein Field. Unfortunately for the Bears (4-2), they found themselves on the losing end of the 2-1 decision and dropped the series to the Dirtbags (4-3) in Long Beach, Calif.

Sophomore Michael Theofanopoulos tossed a solid seven innings of two-hit ball, but didn’t do himself any favors in the second frame.

The young lefty opened the inning with a walk to Juan Avila and hit the next batter, Jonathan Kim. After getting two outs, Theofanopoulos allowed Avila to score on a wild pitch. Kellen Hoime’s single drove in Avila for Long Beach State’s lone RBI of the game.

The single marked the last hit the Dirtbags would register, but it was enough to secure the win.

In the next three innings, Theofanopoulos went to work, retiring the Dirtbags’ batters in order.  He only allowed three more baserunners in his seven innings of work: one reached on an error by shortstop Derek Campbell, one got hit by a pitch and one walked.

Senior Joey Donofrio continued Theofanopoulos’ dominance, striking out two in his one inning of relief.

Starter Ryan Strufing largely baffled the Cal hitters through eight innings, striking out five. Right-hander Jon Maciel picked up the save in a quick ninth inning.

Still, Cal had better luck than the Dirtbags at the plate, raking five hits, including doubles by Mitch Delfino and Chad Bunting. As was the case throughout the series, the Bears struggled to turn those hits into runs.

Bunting’s double in the fourth drove in Vince Bruno from first for the Bears’ lone run. Second baseman Tony Renda singled and advanced Bunting to third. Despite having nobody out, the Bears couldn’t bring another run in: catcher Chadd Krist struck out and first baseman Andrew Knapp grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Cal had yet another chance following Delfino’s two-bagger in the fifth inning. A bunt moved Delfino within 90 feet of tying the game, but the Cloverdale High product was thrown out at third when Campbell slapped a ball back toward the mound.

Stranding runners was nothing new for the Bears, who left a total of 17 runners on in the first two games of the series. Following Friday’s 7-4 loss, coach David Esquer shuffled the lineup, but the Bears still struggled to score.

With nine hits in Saturday’s extra-inning affair, Cal scraped together just two runs, but that was all it took behind a seven-inning gem from starter Matt Flemer.

In the top of the 10th, designated hitter Bruno provided the spark with a triple to lead off the inning. Bunting brought him home on the next pitch with a sacrifice fly, and Scott locked up the win in the bottom half of the inning.