“That game was there to be had. We’re two groundballs away from tying that game, and can’t get production. That’s disappointing,” said head coach David Esquer. “Bases loaded and nobody out, second and third, nobody out. We only got one run.”
Cal (20-10, 8-5 in Pac-12) had previously downed the Cardinal 11-1 at Sunken Diamond, banging out nine hits, but on Friday, the Bears mustered just one infield hit through the first five innings, and six hits on the night – two by junior Mitchell Kranson, including an RBI double in the eighth -- while Stanford was able to get out in front of returning starter Daulton Jefferies, scoring one run thanks to three straight two-out singles.
“He was OK. He was OK. I thought he made some poor decisions in shaking a pitch and not executing, in the first inning, and didn’t execute a couple pitches that he left up,” said Esquer. “For the second week, with two outs and nobody on in the first, we give up runs. That’s tough to do.”
Jefferies went 4.0 innings in his return to the starting rotation, throwing 63 pitches – including 42 for strikes. After the three hits he allowed in the first, Jefferies allowed just one more, striking out four in his return.
Once Jefferies exited, the Bears, as planned, went with Jefferies’ Friday-night replacement during his absence, freshman righty Jeff Bain. In the top of the fifth, Bain promptly allowed a parachute single to right off the bat of Jack Klein, then hit Quinn Brodey in the back foot on a bunt attempt.
Drew Jackson then squared for a bunt attempt of his own, and sent the first pitch he saw between the mound and third. Bain fielded the ball, and went to third, but he dropped his elbow and sent the ball sailing high of third baseman Lucas Erceg, allowing a run to score and putting the Cardinal up, 2-0. A first-pitch RBI groundout by Mikey Diekroeger and a 1-1 liner past a drawn-in infield by Tommy Edman put Stanford up 4-0.
Bain threw 3.0 innings, allowing three hits and three runs – two earned – without striking out a batter.
“I didn’t think he threw the ball well, regardless,” Esquer said. “I didn’t think that they felt threatened by his stuff today.”
Nor did Cardinal starter Brett Hanewich feel threatened by the Bears. He earned his second win on the year to move to 2-3, going 7.0 innings and allowing four hits and two runs, despite walking out five and uncorking three wild pitches and hitting a batter.
Cal got leadoff man Chris Paul on via an 0-2 single up the middle in the bottom of the sixth, and Paul then moved to second on a wild pitch to freshman catcher Brett Cumberland, who took the next four pitches before taking first on a five-pitch walk.
After a brief pitching conference, Kranson stepped up and grounded a single through the right side on the first pitch he saw from Hanewich to load the bases.
An RBI fielder’s choice grounder by Brian Celsi plated Paul, and Hanewich bounced the first pitche he threw to Max Dutto The ball got away from Cardinal catcher Alex Dunlap, but Cumberland got a late break at third, and was easily thrown out with Hanewich covering.
Five pitches later, Dutto walked – a walk that would have brought another run home. Second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz struck out on a check swing on a change up down and away, and that was that.
In the bottom of the eighth, Paul led off by taking a dose from Hanewich, who then surrendered a hard single back up the middle by Cumberland. To counter the hot-hitting lefty Kranson -- who’s gone 11-for-33 over the past 8 games, with 4 doubles, 2 home runs and 5 RBIs – Cardinal skipper Mark Marquess brought in lefty Logan James. With a 2-2 count, Kranson poked a hard grounder inside the bag at third and into the left field corner, but a friendly bounce for the Cardinal kept Cumberland at third. With the potential tying run at second and no outs, Celsi struck out looking, Dutto flied out to left and Tenerowicz grounded out to second.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cal shortstop Preston GrandPre sent a rocket of a single up the middle to lead off the frame, turning the lineup over to speedy Aaron Knapp, but the sophomore center fielder did something he hadn’t done all season – grounded into a double play, doing so on the third pitch he saw from James. Erceg then sent a chopper to first for the final out of the game, completing an 0-for-5 day in the two-hole. Erceg has struggled mightily as of late, going 1-for-17 over the past four games, with three strikeouts. When he struck out in the bottom of the fifth, he slammed his bat into the plate in frustration.
“He’s just pressing, trying to be that all-world player, and he’s not He’s just a piece in the machine,” Esquer said. “It’s frustrating. I’m disappointed, because I think our players are not relaxing in the moment, believing they’re going to get it done. They’re pressing and trying to get that at-bat over as quickly as possible, and it’s just too bad.”
Esquer said that he may move Erceg down to third and move Kranson up to the two-hole to try and shake some offense loose.
“We put [Kranson] at two the other day, and maybe that’s something we’ll do tomorrow, give him another shot at two, and see if we can give a guy an extra crack to get on base,” Esquer said. “We’re going to make some changes. I think Halamandaris will play. I don’t know if they’re going right or left, so we’ll try to shake it up a little bit.”
Both Bain and Alex Schick -- who threw 1.0 inning of relief, allowing one hit and striking out one, needing 15 pitches – will be available to pitch on Saturday, when junior righty Ryan Mason takes the bump against a starter yet to be announced by the Cardinal, at 7:30 p.m.