By the time the 17th inning rolled around at Sunken Diamond on Friday, the two best hitters in the game — Tony Renda of the Cal baseball team and Stanford’s Stephen Piscotty — were a combined 0-for-14.
Renda picked the perfect time to get his first knock in Stanford, Calif. With two outs and Mike Reuvekamp on second base, Renda singled to center field to bring Reuvekamp in, breaking the 4-4 tie in the 18th frame.
But Piscotty got a chance to match if not surpass Renda’s heroics. Pitcher Justin Jones, who was scheduled to start on Saturday but came in as a closer, found himself in a jam with runners on the corners and one out. A ball to the outfield or even a well-placed ground ball would have tied the game.
But Jones won that battle. With a 2-2 count, Piscotty swung for the fences at a curveball in the dirt and whiffed. Brian Ragira grounded out to wrap up the Bears’ 5-4 victory in a marathon of a game.
The 18-inning affair lasted almost six hours, and tied the longest game in Cal program history.
It looked like it would end in the 12th when the Bears (28-24, 11-17 in the Pac-12) scored two in the top half of the inning. Senior catcher Chadd Krist was slated to be hero, ending a dramatic battle with reliever AJ Vanegas with a single to center. Danny Oh and Renda came in to score, giving Cal a 4-2 lead.
But the No. 14 Cardinal (37-15, 17-11) came storming back. Right fielder Austin Wilson doubled to get one run back off reliever Michael Lowden. After issuing an intentional walk to load the bases, Lowden was lifted for Logan Scott.
Scott gave up a single to pinch hitter Brett Michael Doran, scoring Ragira. Wilson tried to score from second, but Reuvekamp threw him out at home to keep the game going.
Scott pitched the next five scoreless innings, giving up just two more hits to earn the win. Jones got his first save of the year for his work in the 18th, while Stanford’s Dean McArdle took the loss.
Oh quietly continued his hot streak, going 4-for-6 with two walks in the leadoff spot. Starter Matt Flemer pitched one of his best games of the year, allowing just one earned run in 7 2/3 innings of work and going toe-to-toe with Stanford ace Mark Appel.
While the two squads played the equivalent of two games on Friday, they meet again in the actual second game of the series on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Sunken Diamond.
Cal needs a sweep for the best chance to receive an at-large bid to the postseason, but Flemer has said the Bears just need to give the selection committee a reason to look at Cal.
An 18-inning game turned into a one-run road victory at the No. 14 team in the nation certainly drew national attention, and may have put Cal in the conversation.