BERKELEY -- California fell for the seventh time in its last eight games on Friday, scoring just a pair of runs despite banging out 10 hits against No. 6 Washington in a 6-2 loss.
The Huskies (27-7-1, 14-3 in Pac-12) scored three of their six runs with two outs, including their first two in the top of the fourth off of senior lefty Kyle Porter.
"They're a veteran team, and if you look at their splits with runners in scoring position, their numbers are really impressive," said head coach David Esquer. "That's where they won the game today."
Andrew Buckley in the eighth and ninth to pull away.
In contrast, Cal (15-19, 4-10) left nine runners on base, including six left in scoring position, with the most haunting pair coming in the bottom of the seventh.
"Second and third, one out, we had; we had first-and-third with one out and didn't score either time," Esquer said.
With the game rapidly slipping away, the Bears got a hard single through the right side from Derek Campbell to lead off the frame. Then, with a 1-1 count, freshman Aaron Knapp -- who went 2-for-5 on the day – sent a high pop fly on the infield, not far from home plate. Third baseman Chris Baker came charging in to snare the ball, but saw it glance off the heel of his mitt, falling to the grass just to the left of the front of home plate, no more than three feet up the third base line. With two men on and no outs, Esquer elected to have slugger Devon Rodriguez -- who has been scalding the ball as of late, and who went 2-for-3 on Friday – to bunt.
"With our luck, we let him swing away there, and it's a ground ball or a fly ball and we get nothing," Esquer said. "We had to play the percentages there, and to his credit, Devon came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I'll bunt them over,' and the kid wants to win as bad as anybody, and he's willing to sacrifice. I thought, ‘Let's get the next two guys a shot at it.' That's not something I like to do, is bunt Devon, but he was being selfless there, and he trusted his teammates to get them in, and they just didn't do it."
Rodriguez successfully laid down the bunt to move both runners into scoring position for first baseman Nick Halamandaris, but the hard-hitting first baseman sent the fifth offering from reliever Trevor Dunlap on a line to left, too hard and too short to score Campbell on a sacrifice fly.
Left fielder Vince Bruno then grounded out back to the box to end the inning, and the threat.
One inning prior, Cal had freshman Robbie Tenerowicz draw an eight-pitch, one-out walk, and then take third on a soft line-drive single to right off the bat of Mitchell Kranson on a hit-and-run play, only for pinch hitter Brenden Farney -- who knocked in two late-game runs on Thursday night – roll into a 6-3 double play to end the inning.
"We had a fly ball to left just short enough not to score, we had a bullet ground ball to the shortstop for a double play, maybe that's the difference right there," Esquer said. "We're right there, and we're not able to knock that door down. It's unfortunate. Our kids are playing hard, but it's just not there for them."
Porter was dominant at times – retiring the first six Huskies and striking out the Pac-12's leading hitter Brian Wolfe and then designated hitter Ryan Wiggins with two men in scoring position in the fourth – but vulnerable at others, giving up an RBI single to Austin Rei with two down and one strike just after striking out Wiggins and Wolfe.
In the top of the seventh, Porter served up a 1-0 double to right center field by Wiggins, who was moved to third by a bunt from Rei. After Porter caught pinch hitter Branden Berry looking at a 2-2 curve on the outside corner for the second out, Porter surrendered a 1-1 single back up the middle to Forgione, breaking the 2-2 tie Cal engineered with a pair of line-drive RBI singles from Bruno and Halamandaris in the fourth and fifth, respectively.
After ninth-place hitter Forgione broke the tie and then promptly stole second, Porter gave up an RBI double into left center on a 2-2 pitch to Bishop.
"He left the ball out over the plate, going fastball in, he overthrew it, it leaks over the middle and that's a base hit with two outs and two strikes," Esquer said. "Kyle's a competitor. Sometimes he tries too hard, and his competitiveness got the better of him on that pitch to Forgione, and then the change up was out and over the plate for Bishop, and they do a nice job. They put a lot of pressure on you nine-one. That's a dangerous nine-one combination, because the nine guy makes the game easier for the one guy, and that's what you hope. We had Rev (Mike Reuvekamp) hitting nine, and with [Devin] Pearson hitting well at the top, that's dangerous, because if you let the nine guy beat you, it makes the game easier for the one guy, and that's what they did tonight."
Porter went 7.0 innings, allowing four runs -- all earned -- on seven hits, with one walk and five strikeouts, as his record dropped to 4-4.
"We were with them; we were playing with them," Esquer said. "We're getting the future of our program – with the [Lucas] Erceg's, the [Robbie] Tenerowicz's and the [Aaron] Knapp's, they're exciting to watch. I want to see what they're going to do every time up."
After dropping the first two games of the series, Cal squares off again with the Huskies on Saturday at 1 p.m., with sophomore righty Ryan Mason (2-0 2.62 ERA) going against junior righty Jeff Brigham (4-1, 2.12). Brigham will be trying to follow up a strong performance from Washington starter Tyler Davis, who went 6.0 innings, scattering nine hits and striking out three in the win on Friday.
"I don't know," Esquer said, when asked what he expects out of the 6-foot-6 righty Mason. "He hasn't been great, lately, and he's been nursing a little bit of a sore back, so it's going to be a quick-hook situation with [Alex] Martinez behind him. We're getting some guys some valuable experience. We left Buckley out there because he's going to be a guy for us, before it's all said and done."
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