SAN FRANCISCO -- By the time California first baseman Devon Rodriguez was pulled off of the bag for a pinch runner after socking a line-drive single to right center in the top of the eighth, he'd already more than made up for an 0-for-4 Senior Day just 24 hours earlier, going 4-for-5 with two runs, two RBIs and his seventh home run of the season, powering a 19-hit Bears attack that led to a 12-4 road win on the Hilltop over the University of San Francisco.
"The wind was blowing a different direction today than the last couple days," said head coach David Esquer. "He probably would have hit two home runs on Senior Day if the wind wasn't blowing yesterday. He had a little tough luck, but then he got paid for it today with that homer."
Rodriguez made his way into the dugout to a tunnel of back slaps, concluding his final game in the Bay Area, but the senior wasn't the only offensive force at Benedetti Diamond for Cal (24-26), as freshman Robbie Tenerowicz continued his white-hot streak, going 3-for-4 with three runs and a walk, adding his fourth double in two games.
"One, I think they're falling, and two, I think I'm just taking better swings," said Tenerowicz, who has nine hits in his last 12 at-bats over the past three games, after going 8-for-83. "I made an adjustment on Saturday, and it worked. I was getting out in front of a lot of pitches, and my stride was huge for a lot of my swings and misses. I sat back in my stance a little bit, and when I sit back in my stance, it shortens my stride."
Shortening that stride allowed Tenerowicz to go the opposite way, which he did once on Monday and twice on Sunday.
"I did that twice in high school, so I don't know how I'm doing it here," Tenerowicz laughed.
Tenerowicz also made a circus grab in the bottom of the seventh, hauling in a flare to center with an over-the-shoulder basket catch.
In all six Bears had multi-hit days, including a 3-for-5 day at the top of the lineup by freshman center fielder Aaron Knapp, who scored a run and drove one in, adding a walk.
Senior Vince Bruno went 1-for-4, driving in three runs with a two-out, bases-clearing double in the top of the first to polish off a four-run inning.
After the Bears put up that four-spot, though, San Francisco (25-29) responded in the bottom of the frame with a towering two-run home run to dead center field by designated hitter Brendan Hendriks -- the first of his two home runs on the day – off of freshman starter Alex Schick.
Schick labored through 4.0 innings, allowing two runs on one hit and three walks, with three strikeouts, throwing 66 pitches. He pulled his head a bit, and pitched more with his body than with his long legs, which was a concern for pitching coach Mike Neu.
"I thought he was alright," Neu said. "The command has obviously got to continue to get better. I thought he was better out of the stretch, where he could kind of just simplify it. He walked three guys out of the windup, so in that last inning, we just said, ‘Hey, let's just go straight from the stretch,' after he walked the first guy and went 1-0 or 2-0 on the next guy. It just seemed a little simpler, but the stuff was good. He threw some really good breaking balls and a couple good change ups. The fastball comes out of his hand good, but he's got to locate better. He gets up in that zone a little bit. It's a work in progress. I think it's pretty easy to see that the stuff is capable of getting good hitters out, and we just need him to climb that ladder and get better."
Schick gave way in the fifth to redshirt junior Michael Theofanopoulos, who took nearly two months off from the team to get his academics in order. The lefty hurler took 20 units this spring in order to graduate, and, though he's three units shy of officially graduating, he fully intends to come back and finish, even though he's expected to leave this June via the Major League Draft.
"I felt pretty good," Theofanopoulos said. "Getting out there for the first time in two months, I had some jitters, but I think I settled down, and I was able to make some pitches and get some outs. I had a really good feel for my curveball today. I was definitely there. My fastball command was a little iffy today, but I think I'll be able to dial that back in, but I was definitely happy with the curveball today."
Theofanopoulos tossed 2.0 innings, allowing one run on one hit with three strikeouts, surrendering a towering homer in the bottom of the sixth to Hendriks – a drive which cleared the 50-foot-high net over the right field wall.
"Fastball, flat, up in the zone, and he just got on it," Neu said. "That guy got two pitches to handle, and he did exactly what he's supposed to do with them. That was just a bomb. That was up there. If you're going to give ‘em up, give ‘em up big, maybe.
"Obviously, a little inconsistent, but he threw some good breaking balls, but he gave up that solo homer. Shoot, it was better. Having a couple weeks off, we didn't want to extend him too much, but he got through that first inning and ran it back out there. He caught a little groove for a little bit, but we weren't going to throw him for more than 30, 35 pitches, being off that long. If he was going good, he might have caught a groove and kept going, but that was as far as we were going to let him go."
The homer didn't do much damage, though, as Cal had struck for three more runs in the top of the frame, thanks to a one-out ground ball single through the right side by Knapp, plating Devin Pearson, and Rodriguez's two-run line-drive homer, which snuck over the right center field wall on a line.
The Bears added two more runs in the seventh and ninth, thanks to a hard bouncing double over the bag at third by Pearson in the seventh, a leadoff home run by redshirt junior Derek Campbell and a line-drive single to center by senior Mike Reuvekamp to drive in Tenerowicz in the final frame.
Junior Chris Paul had a big day both in the field and at the dish. After last starting at third base on April 12, and playing defense just once since then – as a late-inning replacement in left field on May 9 against USC – Paul came into the game in the top of the second in relief of freshman Lucas Erceg.
"I thought he was getting too frustrated," Esquer said of Erceg, who has gone 3-for-15 over his past four games. "We decided to give him a little blow. He was letting the game get too big for him, so he needed to watch a little bit. It's not how he played; he was just getting a little frustrated, and I think he needed to watch a little bit."
Paul proceeded to go 2-for-4 with a run on Monday, and made some nifty plays with the glove.
"Pinch hitting, I feel like you go out there and you try to do too much, sometimes, and I just tried to stay with an approach, see a ball and hit it," Paul said. "My first at-bat, my timing was a bit off, but after that, I settled in and felt alright."
Paul charged a slow grounder to the left of the mound and firing to first to get shortstop Michael Kathan to end the bottom of the fourth, made a tough backhanded short-hop stop and throwing to first to erase first baseman Zack Turner to end the bottom of the fifth and, in the bottom of the eighth, made a diving stop on a shot by Kathan to once again end the inning.
"It's been a while," Paul laughed. "The ball always finds you. It was just cool being out there and being able to make plays. I just tried to stay relaxed and just catch the ball, simplify it a little bit."
The call to go into the game came as a surprise to Paul, but getting to spend an inning in the field and making a play helped settle him down.
"[Esquer] just said, ‘Chris Paul? Chris Paul? Third base!'" Paul said. "I threw off my sweatshirt and got into the game. It was good to be out there again."
With Erceg likely to take the lion's share of innings at third in 2015, Paul is still a bat that Esquer wants to get into the game, and the way Cal does that may be by putting Paul in left field.
"We believe that Chris Paul, somewhere, has to find his way," Esquer said. "Now, he's got to produce and he's got to drive in runs and will have to play old, to play like someone who's played for three years, but we need him to produce, and therefore, he'll need to play somewhere. That could be at first base, that could be at left field, but a key part is his development."
Pearson also showed a bit of life hitting ninth, going 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs, adding a double and two stolen bases.
"When he does things like that, we've seen that before," Esquer said of the sophomore outfielder. "That's nothing he hasn't done before, so to see him do that was promising."
BSB: Bears Batter Dons on the Hilltop
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