BSB: Freshman Plays Hero on Senior Day
BERKELEY -- California got behind early on Senior Day against Arizona after sophomore starter Ryan Mason came out with, in his own words, "nothing," on the mound, giving up two runs in the first inning to the 2012 national champs. But, freshman Robbie Tenerowicz -- who came into the series with just eight hits and not a single multi-hit game – finally broke out, going 4-for-4 with three doubles, one run and three RBIs, powering a 6-4 comeback win over the Wildcats.
"I'm happy for him," said head coach David Esquer. "Consistency is going to be the big deal for him, but he's better than his numbers, and we know that. He's just got to get a comfort and a confidence in the game. It's not easy to be a good freshman. If you look around our league, there's not many of them. He's probably struggling like a number of others are, but we're willing to invest the time and let him get comfortable and hopefully it pays off for us."
Tenerowicz finished the final home series of his first collegiate season by going 6-for-10, nearly doubling his season hit total of eight, adding two sparkling defensive plays on Saturday to help preserve a 7-6 win.
"I haven't really had a good game yet," Tenerowicz smiled. "I really don't know what to say. I don't really have much of an approach. I just wait for a good pitch, and nobody today was that good where you're like, ‘Don't even swing at the curveball if you see it, because that's just a wipe-out pitch.' Anything you can see up, you can hit it."
A single through the left side by Tyler Krause put men on first and second for third baseman Willie Calhoun, but he was saved thanks to some fancy glovework from senior first baseman Devon Rodriguez. Calhoun lined a hard shot to the right side, where Rodriguez snared the ball and stepped on first to end the threat.
"It was a big play, a big swing," Mason said. "They had the momentum, and that play really just fell for us. D-Rod made a nice play on that."
Mason then threw four straight shutout innings, relying on his sinking fastball – the only pitch he had working – to get outs as the Bears (23-26, 11-16 in Pac-12) clawed back.
"I think it's dead-arm," Mason said of his early struggles, after throwing at least 8.0 innings in each of his last three starts. "I'd thrown a lot of pitches over the past four weeks, and I was just trying to battle out there and keep us close. Luckily, I got the opportunity."
After Aaron Knapp took a dose to lead off the bottom of the first, and senior catcher Mike Reuvekamp singled him to third, freshman Lucas Erceg delivered the first blow, driving Knapp home on an RBI single down the right field line.
Cal tied things up in the bottom of the next frame, as Tenerowicz sent a fly ball double into right center, and rode home on an RBI single up the middle by Knapp.
In the bottom of the fourth, Tenerowicz struck again, driving home senior Derek Campbell on a one-out bouncing double down the left field line, giving Cal a 3-2 lead.
Mason ran into trouble in the top of the sixth, though, allowing a leadoff single to Krause, who then stole second and rode home on a single up the middle by Calhoun. After striking out catcher Riley Moore, Mason surrendered a double to right center off the bat of Michael Hoard, giving the Wildcats a 4-3 lead.
"He had nothing," Esquer said. "That was the worst he's been. I give him a lot of credit. It goes unnoticed that he got us into the sixth inning. Yeah, when he was out, it was 4-3 in the bottom and then we went ahead 6-4, but he really had nothing early on. They were hitting a lot of balls hard. He had no movement. He had nothing on the fastball, and then, all of the sudden, he got a wind, and the ball started to sink a little bit for him. I think the last out in the second inning was more of a Mason out, then the third [inning] was better, then the fourth was better, the fifth was better and then they got to him, maybe because it's just baseball and they got to him in the sixth, but he gave us a chance to win, and that's all we can ask. He wasn't his normal self."
Designated hitter Brenden Farney led off the bottom of the sixth with a hard bouncing single up the middle, and advanced to second after a six-pitch walk to Campbell by starter Tyger Talley. Senior left fielder Vince Bruno -- playing in his final home game – golfed the third pitch he saw from Talley over the right side to drive in Farney, and, for the second time in two games, tying the game up.
"Esquer did a really good job, putting me in the right situation with a hit-and-run," Bruno said. "He's done a really good job of placing us in the right offensive positions for a while now, so it was basically Esquer giving me the hit-and-run right there, I saw a pitch that I could put some barrel on, and that's what I did."
Bruno went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, finishing off a 5-for-12 final weekend at Evans Diamond.
"Not a bad weekend at all," Bruno said. "I don't think I changed a thing. I think sometimes baseball gives you a little bit. I think Abner Doubleday, somewhere, said, ‘It's Senior Day. Let's give this kid a ribbie (RBI).
"It's big-time. There's nothing better than seeing this place packed to the gills, and performing well. We get undeniable support, and all we want to do is show this crowd that we can win and we can contend, and that's what we did. I'm really excited to see what we've got in the future, this next week, and really excited to see what we've got next year."
Next up was Tenerowicz. The freshman second baseman took a first-pitch breaking ball for a strike, and then lined the second offering from Talley over Calhoun's head at third and into the left field corner for a two-run double.
Freshman righty Alex Martinez tossed a scoreless seventh, before getting into a spot of trouble in the eighth, allowing two walks to put men at first and third.
Enter: Jordan Talbot. After coming into Saturday night's game with two outs and the bases loaded to get Moore to fly out in the top of the 12th, Talbot once again saved Cal's bacon on Sunday. On Talbot's first pitch to shortstop Kevin Newman, he induced a much-needed ground ball to the left side. Talbot made an awkward, all-out diving try at the ball, before it slipped past him and to Campbell at short, to start a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
"In all honesty, I kind of tripped," Talbot laughed. "It was my first pitch, and I kind of tripped. As I was going down, I was thinking, ‘Maybe I'll try to snag this ball,' but then, I looked back and I saw Derek and I eeked the glove back and let him get it."
Talbot allowed a leadoff single in the top of the ninth to Kingery, before getting a fielder's choice chopper to the right side, striking out Kraus and finally, serving up a line drive fly out to left to earn his second save of the season.
"I was really just trying to keep the ball down, trying to induce that double play, because that's been getting me out of jams," said the side-arming Tablot. "It's way easier on the arm down there, you get sink and let the ball do the work."
The win moved Mason to 6-1 on the year, while Talley dropped to 1-4. Cal next sees action on Monday against San Francisco (25-28) in a 2 p.m. tilt at Benedetti Diamond in the city, with freshman righty Alex Schick set to start.
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