Bears’ comeback falls short as Wildcats take series

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Saturday’s game started with a firework and ended with a dud that fizzled out despite great anticipation.

On just the fourth pitch of the game, Arizona’s Joey Rickard blasted a ball just over the left field wall to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

The Cal baseball team was down to its last out in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 4-1 but threatening with two runners aboard. Pinch hitter Jacob Wark came to the plate with a chance to tie the game with a shot out of the park.

Instead, he struck out swinging to end the game and allow No. 14 Arizona (32-15, 15-8 in the Pac-12) to clinch the three-game series at Evans Diamond.

On a day when all the breaks were seemingly going the other way, fortune smiled on the Bears (25-21, 9-14) in the ninth inning. With two outs, center fielder Chad Bunting dropped a ball into shallow right field for a bloop single. Wildcat starter Konner Wade hit third baseman Mike Reuvekamp to extend the inning.

Coach David Esquer sent the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Wark out to pinch hit. Wark, who also plays tight end on the Cal football team, certainly has the sheer power to go yard, and was looking to take his first round trip of the year tie the game in dramatic fashion.

Wade wanted no part of the bulky batter, throwing three straight balls. Wade managed a strike, and Wark took the count full on a check swing. Wark’s only full hack of the game was a violent miss that secured Wade’s complete game victory.

The Cal offense was largely dormant throughout the game, managing just three hits off Wade. The Bears didn’t get their first hit until the bottom of the fourth inning when right fielder Andrew Knapp knocked a standup, leadoff double.

Second baseman Tony Renda followed up the hit with a walk to put two runners on for clean-up hitter Mitch Delfino. Esquer, an avid proponent of small ball, took the bat out of his hottest hitter’s hands and asked him to bunt. Two bunt attempts went foul and Delfino struck out for an unproductive out. Designated hitter Vince Bruno flied out and catcher Chadd Krist grounded out to end the threat.

Cal only skirted the shutout on a rare Renda home run to left field in the bottom of the sixth inning.

An uncharacteristically rough first inning from ace Matt Flemer decided the game. After giving up the leadoff home run, the senior right-hander didn’t settle down in the first frame. Flemer had runners at the corners with two outs, and Bobby Brown roped a single to center to bring them home.

Flemer kept the Wildcats off the board for the rest of his outing. In the eighth inning, reliever Joey Donofrio gave up a homer to right fielder Robin Refsnyder, the first batter he faced.

The Bears will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at Evans Diamond. Junior lefty Justin Jones will take the mound for Cal, coming off his most dominant performance of the year last week at Washington State.