STANFORD, Calif. — In Friday’s series opener, it took the Cal baseball team 18 innings to defeat Stanford, 5-4. In Saturday’s matinee at Sunken Diamond, the Bears needed just the first four frames.
Two big innings — a four-run second and a five-run fourth — were enough to propel Cal past the No. 14 Cardinal in Stanford, Calif. Coach David Esquer’s club tacked on six more runs, bringing the final score to a whopping 15-5.
Just a week ago, the Bears (29-24, 12-17 in the Pac-12) couldn’t score with the bases loaded and less than two outs, and were looked to avoid getting swept. On Saturday, Cal couldn’t be kept off the scoreboard and put itself in position to sweep Stanford.
Fortune smiled on the Bears a few times – a bloop single here, a safe call on a bang-bang play there. Stanford (37-16, 17-12) certainly helped Cal’s cause, with several wild pitches and passed balls that advanced and in some cases plated runners.
But the Bears capitalized on those breaks and raked big hits like they haven’t done seemingly all year. Success at the plate was contagious, and the carousel of Cardinal pitchers couldn’t contain Cal.
Chadd Krist’s legs got a rest after catching all 18 innings in Friday’s 5-4 win, but his bat didn’t get the day off. As the designated hitter, Krist slapped the Bears’ first hit of the game off Stanford starter Brett Mooneyham in the second inning.
The shot down the left field line gave the senior a standup double, and outfielder Chad Bunting drove him in with a double of his own off the left field wall. Three singles and a hit batsman later, Cal cycled through its lineup and commanded a 4-0 lead.
After the Bears tagged Mooneyham for a couple more runs, Krist knocked the starting southpaw out of the game in the fourth inning with his second double of the afternoon. Second baseman Derek Campbell scored on the play to bring the Bears’ advantage to 7-2.
Campbell had quite a day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs and two runs scored. His horrendous defense at shortstop and third base kept him off the field during the middle of the season, but he was error-free and had some nice picks at second on Saturday.
Shortstop Tony Renda, on the other hand, uncharacteristically continues to struggle. The usual second baseman made two fielding errors on consecutive plays in the fifth, but neither cost Cal any runs. The junior three-hitter went hitless but scored two runs after getting aboard on a walk and a hit by pitch. Renda is 1-for-12 so far in the series, with his lone knock being Friday’s game-winner.
Cardinal coach Mark Marquess sent eight different pitchers to the mound, but only retired the Bears’ side in order twice. Cal also invoked a pitch-by-committee strategy, but tallied only three pitchers and gave up six hits, while Cal recorded 17 hits.
After jumping out to the early 4-0 lead, Esquer opted to play it safe. Starter Michael Theofanopoulos was yanked in the second inning after issuing three consecutive walks. A wild pitch by reliever Chris Muse-Fisher and an error by catcher Andrew Knapp brought two of those runners in, narrowing the Bears’ lead to 4-2, but Muse-Fisher limited the damage.
From there, the Cal offense exploded, giving a large cushion to the all-freshman relief team of Muse-Fisher and Keaton Siomkin. Stanford managed three more runs in the contest, but never felt in the game.
The Bears will go for the sweep on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at Sunken Diamond. With a win, Cal would end the regular season with 30 wins and a solid case for a postseason at-large berth.