With conference play looming, Cal baseball sweeps Fresno State

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The Cal baseball team came into this weekend hurting. The Bears had won only two of their last nine games, a stretch in which Cal had been outscored 52-19 by opponents. Inconsistent starting pitching and minimal offense had the Bears looking like bottom-dwellers only twelve games into the season.

A return home to Evans Diamond was enough to fuel the Bears (9-7) to a four-game sweep of Fresno State, improving their home record to a perfect 7-0. The sweep also marks the first time in program history that a Cal baseball team has ever swept a four game series.

“I am proud of our squad — it is difficult to win a four-game series against anyone, and we knew Fresno State was going to continue to battle,” said Cal coach David Esquer. “I still feel our team is a work in progress with guys maturing into their roles.

“But our players have stood up to our competition, and our effort has been outstanding. Still, the teeth of our season is still ahead of us.”

On Sunday afternoon, the Bears and Bulldogs (3-12) were locked in a 4-4 tie until the bottom of the seventh inning, when sophomore third baseman Chris Paul knocked a solo home run over the left field fence to break the deadlock.

That opened the floodgates for the Bears, who manufactured three more runs in the inning. Freshman center fielder Devin Pearson drew a bases-loaded walk. Fresno State reliever Tyler Stirewalt then hit Cal junior Mike Reuvekamp with a pitch to bring in another run. Junior first baseman Devon Rodriguez added one more run with his second sacrifice fly of the game.

The Bears started strong, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning on a three-run double by Paul. But the sophomore pitcher Dylan Nelson gave up two runs in the second, his last inning of work.

In the fourth inning, Rodriguez gave the Bears an insurance run with a sacrifice fly. Cal freshman Jake Schulz gave up two runs in his 2.2 innings of relief before the Bears bullpen shut down the Bulldogs’ offense for the rest of the game.

Lefty Kyle Porter walked one runner and retired two in his three-batter relief appearance. The Bears will be looking for Porter to bounce back into his previous role as a member of the starting rotation if he can regain his control.

There is still much for the Bears to improve upon as they move on, but the offensive outbursts this weekend at least temporarily settled uncertainties about scoring runs.

Cal opened the series with its third walk-off win of the season, winning in the tenth inning when sophomore Brendan Farney hit a sacrifice fly to center field. The Cal bats awoke on Friday afternoon as the Bears crushed the Bulldogs 8-1. Saturday was another close game, but the Bears were able to hang on to a 4-3 win.

The series sweep has the Bears back on track as they prepare for the main stretch of the season, with conference play beginning next week. Cal begins a three-game series against Utah on Friday.

Warren Laufer covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].