Redshirt senior Devon Rodriguez was playing first base for the first time this season, previously acting just as the Bears’ designated hitter after suffering an injury last season. As he stood at the base, he watched freshman starter Alex Martinez strike out the first batter and then give up a walk, putting Fresno State (14-7) on the bases.
After a balk and a ground out moved the base runner to third with two outs, the ball came toward Rodriguez. Instead of landing squarely in his glove, the ball bounced off his knee, careening away from him and sending the Fresno State player home for the first run of the game.
“It’s going to take (Rodriguez) a little time to get a rhythm back on the field,” said Cal head coach David Esquer.
After that first inning, Rodriguez’s defense settled down, but the Cal baseball team (10-9) never really got it together. It went on to lose to the Bulldogs 6-0, continuing the Bears’ now four-game losing streak.
The pitching wasn’t all that good, with Martinez (0-2) being pulled after four innings due to a high pitch count of about 80 pitches.
With the Bears down 3-0, Esquer went to the bullpen, which has been Cal’s strength this season, to try and stop the bleeding. He looked to pitchers who haven’t had many opportunities — sophomore Collin Monsour, freshman Trevin Haseltine, junior Chris Muse-Fisher and freshman Andrew Buckley — and they allowed three more runs.
Still, the bullpen got no help from a Cal offense that was held to three hits in a complete game by the Bulldog pitcher junior William Munro. It was the longest outing of Munro’s career and stopped the Bulldogs’ three-game losing streak. Despite Munro’s gem, Esquer and the Bears are more focused on the dismal performance by their hitters.
In the Bears’ heart of the lineup (sophomore Devin Pearson, Rodriguez and redshirt junior Derek Campbell), no one has a batting average higher than .240, and the players went a combined 1-8 against Fresno State. Typically considered the most daunting guys in a lineup, the three, four and five hitters are supposed to manufacture runs, which hasn’t been happening all that frequently.
To try and jump-start something, Esquer made a few lineup changes — redshirt sophomore Brian Celsi batted lead-off instead of Pearson, junior Brenden Farney replaced senior Mike Reuvekamp, senior Jacob Wark was the game’s designated hitter — but this still didn’t lead to anything.
Esquer even tried to spark something by putting freshman Lucas Erceg in at third base for the first time this season. Before Tuesday’s game, Erceg had only come in for the Bears from the bullpen, where he has pitched 6.2 innings and has a 1.35 ERA.
“We’re just trying to open (the lineup) up for virtually anyone who can give us a little boost,” Esquer said. “We hadn’t been generating offense with the lineup with the way it was, so it wasn’t going to hurt us to change it.”
The lineup changes still weren’t able to put the Bears on the board, leading to frustration for the team.
“It was one of the worst games that a Cal team has played in a couple of years,” Esquer said.