With runners on first and second in the top of the ninth, the Cal baseball team (30-20, 12-15 Pac-12) eagerly waited for senior pitcher Ryan Mason, a starter who made a relief appearance, to strike out Utah’s Kody Davis and end the game 5-4. Having already struck out two hitters, sending Davis back to the dugout would have won the series for Cal.
But Mason was unable to come through for his team at the moment that mattered most in the rubber match. He instead threw a bad pitch that allowed Davis to hit the ball to right field, bringing in both runners and catapulting the Utes (23-26) ahead in an eventual 6-5 loss and weekend series defeat.
“I don’t fault any of our efforts,” said Cal head coach David Esquer. “I know our guys are working hard. Two walks scored in the ninth inning, that’s just baseball. They always say those come back to haunt you, and they did.”
The poor result exemplified the Bears’ second portion of the season woes that have seen them give up leads in the final innings, only to come up short in their comeback attempts.
Despite having junior pitcher Daulton Jefferies make his long-awaited return to the mound, Cal was unable to capitalize on his three quality innings and leadership. The Bears looked like they would have greatly benefited from another inning or two of Jefferies’ offerings, as the subsequent relievers encountered trouble neutralizing the Utes’ hitters as well as he did.
His absence was immediately noticeable because reliever Matt Ladrech gave up two runs in two innings pitched. Cal’s meltdown worsened in the top of the sixth when sophomore Erik Martinez gave up two runs, leveling the match 3-3.
From there, the Bears’ pitchers had trouble containing Utah’s offense, until the Utes successfully wrested away the match and the series by coming away with two of three games.
Cal’s disappointing result in the final game of the series comes as a bit of a surprise, considering that the team had a strong outing the second match.
The Bears routed the Utes, 9-2, despite going down early in the match. Esquer’s squad put on the performance of a credible postseason contender by turning the tables on Utah with four runs over the first two innings that saw them take a 4-1 lead, leaving Josh Rose’s RBI single in the third inning as nothing but a blemish. The Bears rounded out their strong outing with five unanswered runs that propelled them to victory.
The win, however, may have been more of a minor setback for the Utes, after coming out on top, 8-3, in game one. On this occasion, Utah had no trouble taking control of the match with a 3-0 advantage in the top of the second, before eventually outplaying the Bears to claim the first bout of the series.
Nevertheless, the first two games of the series help convey the story of a talented Cal baseball team that has been consistently inconsistent in the second half of the season. The Bears’ possible postseason may elude them, unless they put forth more complete performances on the mound and on the offense.