For the second consecutive day, the Cal baseball team took a late-inning dagger to its postseason hopes.
In a 4-1 loss at No. 10 Oregon on Friday, the Bears fell apart in the eighth inning, giving up three runs to crack the 1-1 deadlock. On Saturday, the Ducks scored a run in the bottom of the seventh, breaking the 2-2 draw for the 3-2 victory.
Coming off Friday’s loss, Cal (23-17, 7-10 in the Pac-12) had optimistic hopes coming into PK Park, as ace starter Matt Flemer took the mound. With a 1.92 ERA, the senior has been the rock of Cal’s rotation. In his last two starts, Flemer has pitched 17 innings — including a complete game against Santa Clara — and allowed only two earned runs.
But Flemer started the game on the wrong foot. In the first inning, the Ducks (29-13, 13-7) chalked their first run of the game when a double from Brett Thomas — and an error from right fielder Andrew Knapp — brought runner Ryon Healey home from first base.
In the third inning, Thomas struck again, hitting a double to left field that brought Healey home for the second time.
For the three innings afterwards, Flemer was stellar, allowing no runs and one hit. Backed by Mitch Delfino’s two separate RBIs in the third and fifth innings, the Bears tied the game at two.
In the seventh inning, Flemer started out ominously, allowing a Brett Hambright single to start the frame. After a sac bunt moved Hambright to second base, Aaron Payne slapped a single to right field that brought Hambright home for the game-winning run.
Cal came only 90 feet away from tying the game again in the top of the eighth. Danny Oh started the inning with a single, and after a sac bunt and a sac fly, Oh moved to third base with two outs. Vince Bruno unceremoniously ended the inning with a flyout and the Bears’ best chance for a late run came to a halt.
Cal needed a strong showing against the Ducks this weekend to defend last year’s College World Series entry ticket. With only 14 games remaining, the Bears need an exceptional finish — perhaps an even more improbable turnaround than last year’s — to earn a spot back in the playoffs.
The schedule is not getting easier for the Bears — 10 of the final 14 regular season games are against top-25 teams, and Cal needs to break at least a .500 record in the final stretch to have a postseason prayer.
To salvage something out of the series, the Bears play their final contest of the series Sunday at noon.