Takes some to win some: Cal reverses bad fortune in battle against Spartans

Josh Kahen/Staff

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The struggling Cal baseball team finally notched a victory in their midweek matchup Tuesday against 5-12 San Jose State thanks to a heroic comeback rally and competitive at-bats across the entirety of the game. With a Spartan home run in the second base appearance of the game, the contest looked like it would follow much the same script that the Bears’ season has so far — Cal gives up too many runs while not earning nearly enough.

But this year’s squad has a chip on its shoulder. Now toting the worst nonconference start in this century, Cal has had a hard time coming to terms with the departure of lauded veterans the likes of Andrew Vaughn and Korey Lee. On Tuesday, the Bears proved that while their power hitters are still dearly missed, they have the fight and fury in them to march to the beat of their own drum while scoring some runs.

Cal was quick to answer to SJSU’s Ruben Ibarra’s solo homer in the first with a dinger of their own as Grant Holman sent one to the right field track and brought himself and Quentin Selma across the bag. The Spartans and Bears proceeded to go tit for tat and frame by frame. SJSU tied it up 2-2 in the second before Cal pulled ahead again in the fourth with a ground out from Steven Zobac that scored senior Max Flower and Nathan Martorella’s third home run of the year.

But with a namesake like the Bears, bad news is never far away. The Spartans pummeled Cal’s defense into the dirt with five consecutive singles, a walk and yet another one-bagger on no outs for a stupefying five-run inning that left the Bears at a 7-4 deficit despite being ahead for almost the entirety of the game. It looked as though history was doomed to repeat itself, as the blue and gold’s series loss against USF came at the hands of an almost identical five-run inning and come-from-behind victory.

Unlike Sunday, however, Cal refused to surrender and put up a four-run inning of its own, marking its highest-scoring frame since its nail-biting loss against TCU two weeks ago. Brandon McIlwain’s single knocked two home before he rounded the bases himself on a sacrifice fly from Dylan Beavers, and Martorella was able to follow up with an RBI base hit to put the Bears up by a narrow margin at 8-7.

“I definitely think we still have some things to work on, but a bunch of guys came up clutch with runners on base, runners in scoring position, and our lead off guys did a good job of getting on base early,” Flower said, who went 3 for 3 on the night.

One final scoring effort by each team brought the final score to 9-8 with Cal still on top. A well-rounded and fiery offensive effort from the Bears demonstrated to themselves, the Spartans and the Cal faithful that hope still remains for the season.

Cal now sits at 5-11 on the season and have yet to secure a series win. This weekend’s series against Washington State in Pullman, the first of conference play, will provide ample opportunity to get the bats rolling once again if the Bears are able to capitalize on the opportunities presented to them.

“We’re not playing as well as we would like to be, but it’s nice to get a win going into conference,” said Cal head coach Mike Neu. “I think we just got to really focus on learning, continuing to learn, play the game the right way and learn some of the details so we can make sure we’re on the track to get opportunities to win.”

Emily Ohman covers baseball. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @emilyohman34.