After struggling to find a consistent performance level this season, lurching from impressive wins to disappointing losses, Cal baseball may have finally found its groove.
The Bears opened their weekend series against Washington inauspiciously. Junior first baseman Nathan Martorella opened up the scoring in the second inning with a three-run homer. Then, a solo run from sophomore outfielder Trevor Tishenkel gave the Bears a 4-0 lead. But the Huskies took advantage of a late Cal defensive meltdown, scoring six runs, five unearned, in the seventh and eighth innings to steal the game late.
After its devastating Friday loss, Cal bounced back to tie the series Saturday. Washington’s Will Simpson went yard with a solo homer in the first inning, but Cal’s sophomore pitcher Joseph King held the Huskies scoreless thereafter through the eighth frame. Cal’s bats took their time to warm up, but Martorella scored the Bears’ breakthrough runs to give Cal its first lead in the seventh inning
Freshman pitcher Christian Becerra was charged with protecting the Bears’ lead in the ninth inning. He gave up two runs but did enough to secure Cal’s 6-3 win.
On Sunday, the Bears played the series deciding game. Both teams’ bats got hot early, with the Huskies scoring the game’s 10th run to tie the game 5-5 in the fourth inning. Martorella once again delivered a crucial hit for the Bears, with a double on a full-count to bat in the Bears’ go-ahead run.
Cal reached into its bullpen, and senior Sam Stoutenborough delivered five shutout innings to secure the Bears’ win. Cal won 14-5 to close out the series, its second conference series win this year.
“Stoutenborough came in and threw five shutouts on a tough day to pitch with the wind blowing,” said Cal head coach Mike Neu. “We’ve been struggling with shutting down games, and he really weathered the storm well. Our offense did a great job –– we came out early and continued to play through the whole game.”
After its successful weekend homestand against Washington, Cal looked to build on its momentum in a revenge game against Saint Mary’s on Monday. The Gaels were victorious 10-5 in the teams’ first meeting on March 29.
This time, Cal’s pitching committee of redshirt Sophomore Aaron Roberts, freshman Tucker Bougie and sophomore Connor Sullivan put in stellar performances to shut out the Gaels through all nine innings. Cal’s bats saw the game through on offense, scoring six runs to secure the win for the blue and gold.
Martorella, who was named Pac-12 player of the week, continued his red-hot streak at bat with a two-run homer. The Saint Mary’s game marked three games in the last four that Martorella has homered.
“He’s always been a good hitter –– he’s just getting more comfortable and confident,” Neu said. “He’s seeing the ball well, and his swing is continuing to develop. He’s hitting the ball line-to-line right now, and that’s an attribute of a great hitter.”
The Bears are on a three-game win streak for the second time this season, but Cal feels that not much has changed in terms of performances: The team has been playing quality baseball for large stretches of the season, and the results are finally starting to shift in its direction.
The Bears now sit at 16-16 on the season, ranked sixth in the Pac-12. They will open their series against Washington State, who is last in the conference, come Thursday.
Colin Mequet covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].