Cal baseball’s weekend date against No. 7 Oregon State left both the team and the fans with mixed emotions. Despite grinding out a 3-2 victory in the opening game, the Bears could not hold off a Beaver comeback in game two, falling 2-3, and dropped the rubber match 5-10.
The trip to Corvallis was essentially a microcosm of the Bears’ season thus far. On one hand, Cal showed it is capable of beating any team in the nation, whether it’s the defending national champion Beavers or the preseason-No. 2 LSU Tigers; on the other, it still lacks the ability to put teams away in late innings, especially those at the top of the college baseball table.
Youth and inexperience throughout the pitching staff have been the root of these inconsistent tendencies, but the Cal batting lineup has failed to show up on occasion as well. Entering the season, these growing pains were expected, as head coach Mike Neu admittedly tinkered with his rotation and lineup to find the best mix of productivity and consistency, but with two series already gone in the conference season, the Bears may need to solidify their roles sooner rather than later.
The series opener was yet another pitcher’s battle that featured two of Cal’s most productive arms this season: freshman Sam Stoutenborough and junior Arman Sabouri.
After a quick two innings, Stoutenborough controlled the mound from the third through the eighth. In just more than five innings, the freshman allowed only four hits and two runs, despite giving up four walks. Sabouri then closed out the Beavers for a five-out save, including three strikeouts.
Junior Max Flower and sophomore Quentin Selma produced the Bears’ first two runs in the fourth and seventh, respectively. Flower roped a double to left center for the early 1-0 lead, and Selma again broke the tie with a double to right. In the bottom half of both innings, OSU returned the favor to bring the Beavers back on level terms.
The game was tied 2-2 with two outs in the top of the eighth, and Cal had runners on first and third. OSU pitcher Mitchell Verburg slung a pitch in the dirt that bounced off the catcher’s foot and rolled toward the dugout. With some good baserunning, sophomore Darren Baker hustled home for the go-ahead run and 3-2 lead.
Junior Korey Lee gave Cal an early 2-0 lead and its only offense of the day, ripping a double down the left-field line in the first inning; however, the Bears would falter that lead away in subsequent innings.
OSU trailed 2-1 in the fifth inning with Cal junior Rogelio Reyes on the mound. The Beavers strung together a few hits against Reyes, including junior Adley Rutschman’s go-ahead single that secured their 3-2 lead.
While Reyes closed out the remainder of the game well, the Bears were not able to muster any sort of comeback in late-innings.
In Sunday’s rubber match, OSU did not leave much room for doubt about the winner. Sabouri labored through the first inning, yielding five runs on five hits.
In the second, OSU sophomore Ryan Ober smashed the first grand slam of his career, easily clearing the wall in left-center to give the Beavers a commanding 9-0 lead.
Lee led Cal’s comeback efforts in the third and seventh innings — going three-for-three with two RBIs on the day — but it was not enough to help the Bears overcome an early deficit. OSU eventually secured the series win with a 10-5 tiebreaking victory over the Bears.
Of course, there are some positives that Cal can take home to Berkeley. The defending national champion Beavers are primed to make another College World Series run, and the Bears were in a position in game two to take two-of-three games on the road. With Cal showing flashes of potential throughout the season, consistency will be crucial moving forward.