At the crack of the bat, Cal outfielder Vince Bruno immediately turned and started running back toward the left field wall. The senior was conscious of the fence quickly approaching, but he had to catch UCLA’s Kevin Williams long bomb if he were to keep the 1-1 tie intact.
He was backing up, backing up and then he was jumping for the catch. But suddenly, he ran out of room.
Williams’ blast sailed just over the wall, and all Bruno could do was turn back to the diamond, head down.
“I thought I had it in my glove, but I missed it by a couple inches,” Bruno said. “It just slipped through my hand.”
In the top of the seventh of game two of the series between UCLA and the Cal baseball team, the Bruins would take a 3-1 lead off the two-run home run. Behind the pitching of lefty Grant Watson, the Bruins would best the Bears by that final score on Evans Diamond. In the entire series, the Cal offense disappeared as the Bears were swept, also dropping game one, 3-2, and game three, 6-1.
“They pitched better than us, they hit better than us, and they defended better than us on our home field, and that’s tough to watch,” said Cal coach David Esquer.
Cal’s one and only run in game two came in the bottom of the second inning from an unexpected source. Second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz surprised everybody at Evans Diamond, including Bruins’ starter Watson, when he took the lefty deep in the bottom of the second inning. The freshman infielder recorded his first home run, first RBI and only his fourth hit of the year with the long bomb to left-center field.
UCLA would make up the deficit in the top of third. Bruin right fielder Christoph Bono plated shortstop Trent Chatterton on a single up the middle, right past Cal starter Kyle Porter, to tie the game at 1-1.
After the Bruins’ RBI single, each starter settled into a rhythm. The bats went silent, with no recorded hits for either team until the top of the sixth inning as 18 straight batters were retired.
While Porter had a solid outing, lasting 6.1 innings and yielding three earned runs, Watson stole the show on the mound. The lefty was dominant, responding well from his one mistake given up to Tenerowicz and shutting down the Cal offense.
“We couldn’t string hits together, and that was basically the game right there,” Bruno said.
Then, Williams’ home run gave the Bruins another late-inning lead at 3-1 in the top of the seventh.
The Bruins, living up to their 50-0 record when leading going into the eighth inning since last year, closed out the Bears. Watson would last eight innings, yielding just two hits before being replaced by shutdown closer David Berg to record the save.
“You don’t want to be down 0-3 in league to start off with,” Esquer said. “We have to play desperate; we have to play for our lives.”
Austin Crochetiere covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].