Cal baseball drops home series to Washington

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Head coach David Esquer is usually the epitome of optimism on the field. But after Friday’s 4-2 loss against Washington, the emotion of a man whose team has dropped eight of its last 11 games against division opponents finally erupted.

In a barrage of curse words, shouting and hand gestures, Esquer let his team know that enough was enough. He was not going to stand by and let his team feel sorry for itself while it continued to lose easily winnable games. Nobody said a peep as Esquer vented out two weeks worth of frustration into one postgame team meeting.

The No. 24 Bears (24-16, 10-11 Pac-12) lost two-of-three games against the Huskies (25-15, 11-7) this weekend, wrapping up their disappointing homestand as they continue to find their lost mojo.

On Friday, with Cal leading 1-0, Washington struck back in the fifth and sixth innings with the help of poor pitch blocking. In the fifth, a wild pitch from Ryan Mason advanced Levi Jordan to second base. In the sixth, a passed ball would once again move another base runner into scoring position. Both runners ended up scoring on subsequent RBI singles to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead going into the seventh.

“I just gotta be a little better. I gotta keep (the ball) in front of me a little more so that guy doesn’t end up in second because that turns into a run,” said sophomore Brett Cumberland. “That’s completely on me, it’s not on Mason at all.”

Although Cal came back to tie it in the seventh inning off a senior Devin Pearson home run, the Bears handed the Huskies the lead once again in the eighth with a two-out home run by John Naff. The Bears gave up another run in the ninth and lost the game 4-2.

In lieu of Daulton Jefferies — who was hinted to start — Tanner Dodson took the hill for Cal on Saturday and dominated. The freshman threw seven innings while striking out four, giving up Washington’s only run of the game in his last inning of work.

In the bottom half of the seventh, Cal was already up 3-1, and the Bears erupted for a four-spot to inflict the final winning blows on the Huskies.

Senior Brian Celsi started off the inning with a base hit and was put into scoring position by junior Aaron Knapp, who pushed a sacrifice bunt. With the bases now loaded after a Preston Grand Pre single and Pearson walk, second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz brought home two with an RBI single up the middle. Third baseman Mitchell Kranson followed Tenerowicz with a two-run single of his own, giving Cal a 7-1 win.

The Bears put themselves in an early jam during the second inning of Sunday’s rubber game. Sophomore Matt Ladrech gave up a leadoff double to outfielder MJ Hubbs and then walked Naff. After a sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third, a sacrifice fly to center gave Washington its first run of the game.

The Huskies tacked on two more in the third, starting with an RBI single from Joey Morgan that scored Baker. Morgan scored one batter later when Hubbs doubled into left-center to give Washington a 3-0 lead.

Cal came back to tie the game in the bottom of the third with Cumberland hitting a two-out, three-run blast — his 12th home run of the year.

But Washington would come right back in the fourth, scoring a leadoff walk with a one-out RBI single from AJ Graffanino to make it 4-3. The team added one more run off a sacrifice fly in the seventh and two more in the ninth.

The Bears rallied in the ninth inning, at one point having the bases loaded with no outs. With the bases juiced, Pearson lined a ball fair to shrink the deficit to 7-4. Cal had the opportunity to add yet another run when Tenerowicz lined an out into left field. Left fielder KJ Brady’s throw back into the infield scooted past the third baseman, giving Knapp the opportunity to score from third. Knapp didn’t tag up, however, and did not score as Cumberland struck out and Kranson grounded out to end the game.

“Shoot, I think I would have rather gone 1-2-3 in the ninth than have that last inning, unfortunately,” Esquer said.

Chris Tril covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSportsNet