Already into his fifth inning pitching out of the Cal bullpen, sophomore pitcher Jeff Bain tried desperately to prevent the Bears’ second walk off loss in as many days. But with runners on first and second, Duke outfielder Griffin Conine sealed Cal’s fate with a double down the right field line, winning the rubber game of the series for the Blue Devils by a score of 5-4.
The No. 12 Bears (1-2) were unable to pick up the win in two close games against Duke (2-1) this weekend, winning their only game behind a fantastic start by junior pitcher Daulton Jefferies.
Jefferies started off the season with a bang for Cal, striking out nine batters while going six innings and picking up his first win of the year. A timely RBI single in the seventh by Preston Grand Pre secured the W for Jefferies with the Bears scoring a total of five runs in a 5-2 win.
“It was really big for (Jefferies) and the team as a whole to see him come out and to pitch the way he did, it was a very great performance,” said Cal outfielder Nick Halamandaris. “He gave up those runs — that might have been on him — but still, after that, he settled down and shut them out.”
The offense continued into Saturday with Cal gaining a quick 3-0 lead against Duke’s starting pitcher, Trent Swart. The Bears were able to knock Swart out of the game early after taking the lead. It would not last, however, as the Blue Devils would come back in the bottom of the third against Cal starter Ryan Mason.
Mason fell victim to the Duke offense after two straight doubles and an RBI single. With the score now 3-2 in the Bears’ favor, a pair of untimely walks — along with a single and a throwing error by Cal — gave the Blue Devils a 5-3 lead.
The Bears would come back and tie it in the fifth, but the deadlock would continue into extra innings after Cal failed to score in the top of the ninth. It was Duke’s centerfielder Evan Dougherty that ended the stalemate, lining Tanner Dodson’s pitch into centerfield to bring in the runner from third and secure the 6-5 win.
Sunday’s matchup would lead to more disappointment for Cal as the Blue Devils once again walked off in celebration after a down-to-the-wire matchup.
Duke was able to knock Cal starter Matt Ladrech out of the game after only three innings as a result of a Jalen Phillips three-run home run. The Bears were able to fight back and tie the game 4-4 in the seventh inning, thanks to a clutch 4.1-inning relief appearance by Bain. But Bain could not win it for Cal, allowing the go-ahead run to score from second off of Conine’s double.
“Obviously, as a competitor, you don’t want to lose,” Halamandaris said. “It was a tough series. They’re a good team. We keep our heads on straight. There’s a lot of good games to build on and there’s a lot of things that we did that we need to improve.”