In the last series played this year at Evans Diamond, the Cal seniors said goodbye to what has been their second home over the past several years. These players are the last of the group that saw the team almost cut before it was reinstated and made a run in the College World Series.
In terms of hitting, senior Devon Rodriguez finally put the power back in his swing, looking dangerous, and senior Vince Bruno has improved his batting average — at one point leading the Pac-12 in batting average. Meanwhile, senior Jacob Wark’s power-hitting has been essential off the bench for Cal.
The seniors on the pitching corps have also shined, with senior Kyle Porter shining in the No. 2 role in the rotation. Senior closer Trevor Hildenberger has stepped nicely into his role, saving nine games thus far for the Bears.
And, senior Mike Reuvekamp, whom head coach David Esquer considers the glue of the team, has been a leader for the team and has come up big in a number of moments.
In the final home game for these seniors, the Bears (23-26, 11-16) were able to take two out of three games against Pac-12 rival Arizona (20-32, 9-21). After a disappointing 6-0 loss Friday, the Bears bounced back Saturday to win, 7-6, in 12 innings. And, on Sunday’s Senior Day, the Bears won, 6-4.
Friday’s starter, freshman Daulton Jefferies, seemed to have control of his pitches early, yielding only one run in the third inning after a Wildcat single to left center was bobbled by freshman center fielder Aaron Knapp. Then, two innings later, Jefferies struggled, allowing five runs.
The next night, Cal was able to show its offensive prowess. While Porter’s outing was far from his best all season — he gave up six runs on seven hits in six innings pitched — the Bears’ hitters kept the team competitive in what turned out to be one of the most dramatic games of the season.
Cal took a 3-0 lead in the first before Arizona managed to put two on the board in the third. The Wildcats then tied it up in the top of the sixth, but the Bears added two runs in the bottom of the inning. Then, in the seventh inning, the Wildcats tacked on three more runs, which, for a time, looked like it would put the game away.
But Cal wasn’t done yet. Bruno managed to nail a pitch to send the game into extra innings. The Bears had already sent their closer into the game, but as the game droned on and after Hildenberger pitched five innings, Esquer went to the bullpen with three pitchers — Dylan Nelson, Chris Muse-Fisher and redshirt freshman Jordan Talbot — each pitching to one batter. The squad kept the game tied heading into the bottom of the 12th inning.
Arizona’s pitcher hit Wark to lead off the inning, followed by sophomore Brian Celsi’s slash hit through the left side of the infield. Knapp had a sac bunt, and, with the bases loaded, Reuvekamp nailed a ball to center field to end the game.
On Sunday, the Bears were able to keep things interesting as the lead bounced back and forth in an eventual 6-4 victory for Cal — an appropriate home-series conclusion for the Bears’ seniors.