PALO ALTO, Calif. -- California played backwards on Sunday against Stanford in the second of the two rivals' three-game set, with senior lefty starter Kyle Porter pitching his best towards the end of the game, and the Bears offense performing a vanishing act that was quite the opposite of its late-inning heroics the night before.
When all was said and done, a fourth-inning, three-run home run from Cardinal freshman Tommy Edman -- the first of his collegiate career – proved to be the difference, as Stanford pulled the series even with a 4-1 win.
"These were two pretty hot pitchers," said Bears head coach David Esquer, referring to the winning hurler – junior lefty John Hochstatter, who turned in his second career complete game, allowing five hits and striking out three on 107 pitches. "Their guy's been on a hot streak, too, and it's unusual. Porter's been on, and a guy loaded up on a fastball with runners in scoring position, and had a little freedom because he had a SAC fly opportunity, and ran one out of here."
Cal (17-21, 6-11 in Pac-12) got out to an early lead in the top of the first against Hochstatter (6-1), when freshman Aaron Knapp threw the bat head out at a 1-2 breaking ball and banged it back up the middle for a leadoff single. Knapp was sacrificed over to second by Derek Campbell, and his dancing off the second base bag drew four looks from Hochstatter before Devon Rodriguez sent a line shot into right center. Center fielder Austin Slater nearly came up with the drive, forcing Knapp to hold, but Slater then bobbled the ball for a fraction of a second, allowing Knapp to get the afterburners going and come around to score, sliding under the tag at home to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.
Lucas Erceg then came up with a two-out single to put runners at first and third for Brian Celsi, but the Cal left fielder grounded out to second to end the threat.
From there on out, the Bears managed just two more hits against Hochstatter, as Porter continued to struggle.
In the bottom of the fourth, Porter got ahead of Zach Hoffpauir 0-2, before missing up with a fastball and burying two curves out of the zone. He then hung the payoff pitch, which Hoffpauir promptly banged into the left field corner for a double.
Porter went 1-1 to shortstop Drew Jackson, before giving up a single through the left side to put men at the corners for Edman, who came into the day hitting .250 on the season, with just four extra-base hits.
Edman jumped on Porter's first offering and sent it over the left field wall for a three-run jack. Porter then gave up a single over second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz, drawing a visit from pitching coach Mike Neu.
"I went out there, talked about him being down, and being a little more aggressive with his stuff, and he did a really good job after that," Neu said. "A couple pitches that weren't executed the way we wanted to, and that was probably the difference in a game where we get three hits in the first inning and can't get any more. It's tough on both ends."
Porter then got a pop out and a groundout to first to end the inning, and didn't allow a single hit over the next three innings, and just one base runner.
"He was way better the last, shoot, the last three innings than he was the first four," Esquer said. "He finally started throwing some pitches, but before that, he was elevated. He was up. It was either too much or not enough. His pitches were all too much or not enough. The balls were elevated or they were too hard or not hard enough and not getting them to the spot, and that's not like him."
In the top of the fifth, the Bears threatened, getting a one-out double from shortstop Mike Reuvekamp and a two-out walk to Campbell, putting men at the corners for Cal's RBI leader in Rodriguez.
The senior slugger worked the count to 3-1, before flying out weakly to center, quashing what would turn out to be the Bears' final scoring opportunity.
"Devon's 3-1 with runners at first and third, their guy hits a homer with runners at first and third, and we get that fly out. They came through in that spot, even though it was a one-out versus a two-out spot, it's still the same spot – What did you do?" Esquer said. "Their guy got the barrel out and our guy didn't get the barrel out and hit a fly ball."
Redshirt freshman Jordan Talbot threw a scoreless eighth, allowing one hit and striking out one. Cal elected not to pull Porter when he was struggling because of a lack of depth in the bullpen, thanks to throwing Trevor Hildenberger for 2.2 innings and Dylan Nelson for 1.1 on Saturday night, plus Tommy John surgery on the right elbow of Keaton Siomkin, and the fact that veteran lefty Michael Theofanopoulos has taken a leave from the team to deal with personal issues. In Monday's finale, both Hildenberger and Nelson will be available, as will freshmen righties Alex Martinez, Alex Schick and Andrew Buckley.
Sophomore righty Ryan Mason (3-0, 2.32 ERA) will take the hill at 6 p.m. at Sunken Diamond in the rubber match, televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
"We should have pretty much everybody back up," Neu said. "We'll have Trevor back for an inning. He threw today and felt good. We had him down today, but he said he'd be good for tomorrow. We'll have Nelson back, and we'll have Martinez, maybe Schick for one. We should be pretty live in the bullpen. We hope Mason gives us a good start, but we'll have pretty much everyone available. We'll sell out with our bullpen to win tomorrow, if we need to, but Mason gave us a great start last time. Hopefully he can give us something similar, and we can come out with this series. This is huge for us. We've got to win tomorrow, to keep ourselves alive."
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