In its final four games before conference play, Cal baseball put both its potential to score big wins and what is becoming its characteristic inconsistency on full display.
On Friday, March 4, Cal opened its series against No. 10 Florida State at Dick Howser Stadium.
The Bears’ bats got hot early. Fifth-year infielder Hance Smith opened up the scoring in the second inning with a solo home run, and sophomore outfielder Trevor Tishenkel scored Cal’s second in the bottom of the third.
Meanwhile, junior pitcher Josh White put in a stellar five-inning shift, striking out 11 of 21 batters he faced before leaving the game with the Bears up 3-1.
But following the pitching change, Florida State began to pick up steam, and a late Seminole surge tied the game at 3-3 heading into the ninth inning.
Florida State, flowing with confidence, struck two Cal batters out and tagged senior catcher Cole Elvis at second base. In the bottom of the inning, the Seminoles loaded the bases, and a base hit to right field allowed Jordan Carrion to score the walk-off run and break the Bears’ hearts.
The Bears looked to rebound in the second leg of the series, but they could never gain a foothold in the game, finding themselves down 5-0 by the sixth inning. Home runs from Dylan Beavers and Rodney Green Jr. made the scoreline more respectable — the Bears lost 7-4.
In the last game of the series, Cal finally overcame the Seminoles. The game went into extra innings at 3-3, where Nathan Martorella and Rodney Green Jr. scored Cal’s go-ahead runs. Senior pitcher Nick Proctor sealed the game to pick up his first win of the season.
“I thought we played really well,” said head coach Mike Neu. “Throughout the series, a tough road series, we put ourselves in a position to win two games. We got one.”
After a day of rest, Cal hosted unranked Santa Clara at Evans Diamond.
Both teams’ bats got hot early, with the Bears and Broncos both slugging six runs in the opening three innings. But while Santa Clara kept its foot on the gas, the Bears hit a cold spell. Santa Clara touched home plate three more times, while the Bears were shut out of the rest of the game.
“There weren’t really many facets of our game that I felt like we did a great job of,” Neu said. “Obviously, if you’re going to give up nine runs, that’s not a great recipe to win. We had some things offensively go in early, but then six zeros to end the game. It’s tough when you’re down but it was just frustrating for our coaching staff and our team.”
Cal’s loss to Santa Clara, off the back of its win at No. 10 Florida State, is illustrative of the Bears’ biggest difficulty this season: replicating their success against the nation’s best programs when they play less competitive opposition.
Cal is now 3-2 against ranked opponents, but just 2-5 in contests against unranked teams.
“Hopefully, we can continue to learn,” Neu said. “It’s a long season, and, if you can learn from some of these mistakes, get better, and continue to find the right pieces and gel as a team, you can get rolling. If we can do that, we’ll be in a good position.”
Cal now sits at 10th in the Pac-12. It will open conference play against No. 16 Arizona on Friday, March 11, at Evans Diamond.