Poor pitching dooms Cal baseball in series loss at UC Irvine

Kay Yang/File
Freshman Max Dutto and the Bears struggled this weekend against UC Irvine, dropping three games of the four game series. Cal is now 4-4 on the season.

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Last weekend, pitcher Michael Theofanopoulos was a beacon of consistency in an otherwise scattered and wild performance from the rest of the starting rotation.

Against UC Irvine on Sunday afternoon, the word “consistency” and Theofanopoulos didn’t belong in the same Zip code.

After the Bears’ offense went down quietly in the first inning, Theofanopoulos took the hill, looking to even up the four-game series.

Theofanopoulos immediately got off to a conspicuous start, walking the first two hitters he saw. With runners on first and second with no one out, Theofanopoulos grooved a pitch to the Anteater’s third baseman Taylor Sparks, who smacked it to right field for a two-RBI triple.

Sparks killed the Bears all day, going 4-for-5 with 3 RBI.

Sparks scored on the following at-bat, as Theofanopoulos obtained his only out of the game on a groundout to short.

With the bases empty and three Anteater runs in, Theofanopoulos had an opportunity to turn his performance around. But after a subsequent walk and a double put runners on third, coach David Esquer promptly pulled Theofanopoulos after just 0.1 innings of work.

When the dust finally settled, Cal had allowed seven runs in the first inning and was unable to recover, eventually falling 9-1 to Irvine at Anteater Stadium.

Theofanopoulos allowed five runs on two hits and walked three. His ERA for the day was 136.36.

Excluding Theofanopoulos, starting pitching demonstrated only slight improvements over the weekend.

Most encouraging was Justin Jones’ four-inning outing on Friday. Although Jones allowed two earned runs, his control improved markedly. After struggling to locate in his first start against Michigan, Esquer showed concern about Jones’ control and command. Against UC Irvine, Jones went the entirety of his start without walking a hitter.

Kyle Porter, the other control-struggling left-hander in the rotation, failed to take steps forward. Porter lasted just two innings, walking two and allowing three runs in the process.

With starting pitching still looking like the Bears’ major obstacle to success, positive developments emerged on the offensive side of the ball.

Jacob Wark, the right fielder who started in seven games for the football team at tight end in the fall, stood out as the premier hitter on the squad this weekend. Despite resting on Sunday, Wark still managed to hit two triples and a double over the first three games. In 28 at-bats this season, Wark was hitting .321 with a .500 slugging percentage.

Against the Anteater’s star pitcher Andrew Thurman on Friday, Wark slugged two triples in consecutive at-bats to tie a school record for triples in a game.

The starting pitching solidified Cal’s fate in the series loss to the Anteaters. Unless Wark, Rodriguez, and Knapp morph into Cal alums and Major Leaguers Xavier Nady, Kevin Maas and Brett Jackson, this storyline will hold true for the remainder of the season.

Michael Rosen covers men’s baseball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @michaelrosen3.