All season long, the Cal baseball team looked forward to this weekend’s series against USC. On Thursday night, the Bears played a night game at home for the first time in program history after installing lights atthe 80-year-old Evans Diamond.
But the Trojans spoiled the celebration, beating Cal in both of the series’ night matchups.
USC handed the Bears their first home loss of the 2013 season on a slow roller up the third baseline by senior Adam Landecker in the ninth inning to win Thursday’s game 4-3.
On Friday, the Bears took a 3-0 lead to start the game, but Cal senior starter Justin Jones gave up six runs in 4.1 innings, and junior Kyle Porter allowed three more runs in just a third of an inning of work. The Bears’ offense could not muster enough offense for a comeback and dropped the game 9-5.
Cal finally powered through USC pitching in Saturday’s series finale to win Jus15-5 in an offensive explosion that set a new mark for runs scored in a game by the Bears this season.
Although his batting average dipped in recent weeks, sophomore Chris Paul was the offensive leader for the Bears on Saturday. The third baseman was 2-for-5 in the game with two home runs, including his first career grand slam in the seventh inning off of USC reliever Matt Munson. Paul finished the game with seven RBI, a career best.
“We didn’t play our best baseball the first couple of games, but we came out and salvaged a series today,” Paul said after Saturday’s game. “It was great that I had a couple good swings and hit the ball hard to help my team out.”
But Paul was not the only player that helped the Bears out on Saturday. After Cal starter Keaton Slomkin gave up four runs in only four innings, his teammates erupted at the plate to mount a comeback.
Paul started the onslaught in the fifth inning, hitting a three-run home run off of USC starter Kyle Tworney in the fifth inning, cutting the Trojans’ lead to 4-3. Juniors Devon Rodriguez and Andrew Knapp added back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning to give the Bears a 5-4 lead.
In the seventh inning, Cal broke open the game with eight runs. Six of the first seven Cal hitters hit singles before Paul’s grand slam put a dagger deep through USC’s comeback hopes.
Sophomore right-hander Dylan Nelson led a strong bullpen effort for the Bears. Nelson struck out four batters in four innings of work, allowing three hits and no runs to hold the Trojans’ offense dormant.
Cal added two more runs in the eighth inning before USC scored one run in the top of the ninth.
The Bears will play a single nonconference game Monday evening at Stanford before traveling to Tucson to take on Arizona in a three-game series starting Friday.
Warren Laufer covers baseball. Contact him at wlaufer[email protected]