BERKELEY -- California sophomore right-hander Ryan Mason made three mistakes on Sunday – mistakes that no Bears pitcher had yet made this weekend – with two of those coming against Oregon State slugger Michael Conforto. Those three mistakes cost him his first loss of the season, as the Beavers completed the sweep with a 5-0 win at Evans Diamond.
Conforto had gone 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Saturday night, but did just about all the damage on Sunday, socking a towering two-run home run off the right field foul pole with one out in the top of the first, and crushing an RBI double with two on and one out in the top of the third, followed up by a rocket up the middle for a two-run single off the bat of Dylan Davis.
"It was all my fault," said Mason. "I was leaving pitches up to him. I wasn't making the tough pitches, and he's a great hitter. You have to make great pitches to a great hitter, and I didn't do that."
After giving up five runs over the first three innings, Mason settled in, in a bit way. He gave up just three more hits over the next 5.0 innings, striking out three.
"I know the pitcher for Oregon State was a really good pitcher, so I had to bear down," Mason said. "I had to find it within myself to keep my team close when I had to, and I did. I got ahead with my fastball. Someone told me once that the first-pitch strike with the fastball is the best pitch in baseball, and I agree with that."
Unfortunately for Mason and the Bears, Oregon State lefty Jace Fry was even better, going the distance for a complete-game shutout, allowing just one hit – a ground ball single up the middle to senior Vince Bruno to lead off the bottom of the third – and walking one, striking out six.
"I thought he did a nice job," head coach David Esquer said of Mason, who went 8.0 innings, giving up five runs – four earned – on seven hits and three walks, with three of those runs coming on two pitches to Conforto. "I complimented him on it. He pitched with a lot of will there, at the end, with really nothing going on behind him, and after a couple rough hitters that cost him. Obviously, the talent of their lineup came through with all five RBIs today, and we weren't able to match that. The kid pitched a good ballgame, and as easily as he handled [Devon] Rodriguez for us, it kind of set the tone for the guys. That's your big guy, and their big guy, going head-to-head, and their guy's driving the pile."
Conforto had been 1-for-7 with one run and just one RBI in the series coming into Sunday, when he went 3-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs.
"I think he just crawled all over Mason," Esquer said. "he saw his pitches, and crawled all over the plate and didn't let [Mason] think he could get anything by him. He manned up on those pitches. The wind usually helps us, but I think the wind helped [the home run], because it kept it fair. You thought it was going to hook, but it kept straight."
After being one-hit, the Bears now have a team batting average of .230, and it doesn't improve, it will prove to be Cal's worst team batting average since 1973.
"Pretty frustrating," Esquer said. "The guy's a tough match. Obviously, we're heavy left-handed, and he handled us better than any lefty has, so far. That's always going to be a tough match for us, a little bit, because we can run seven or eight lefties if we wanted, and even [Nick] Halamandaris, who we shot in there, who has our best batting average against left-handed pitching in general, [Fry] was tough on him, too. Him and Rodriguez will really tell you what kind of quality left-hander he was."
Halamandaris and Rodriguez combined to go 0-for-7 against Fry.
NOTEBOOK AND ON DECK
Pinole Valley shortstop Kasey Wallace -- a 2015 prospect – was in attendance on Sunday. He's a rangey infielder with power, hitting .500 with 27 RBIs, 12 doubles and six home runs this season in 22 games for the 16-6 Spartans. He remarked on the atmosphere, in particular, which saw 1,303 in attendance at Evans Diamond – the second time this series Cal broke the 1,000-fan mark.
Cal will hit the road this weekend for a three-game set at USC, before returning home next weekend for a three-game set against 2012 national champion Arizona.
BSB: Conforto Comes Out of Shell in Finale
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