The Fighting Camels bested Cal 5-3, banging out nine hits – including two doubles – against Jefferies, who dropped to 5-3 on the year, with the 3-4-5-6 hitters in the Campbell lineup going a combined 9-for-15 on the evening.
“He was actually pretty efficient,” said pitching coach Mike Neu. “It’s definitely tough. You get eight out of him, you’re probably going to win. Their 3-4-5-6 guys were the only guys that had hits against him, and nobody else had hits. They were pretty aggressive early, but after that, I thought he settled in pretty good, but we couldn’t line up hits.”
After scoring a run in the bottom of the first on an RBI single up the middle by Matt Parrish, who cashed in a one-out double by speedster Cedric Mullins, Campbell (29-20) tallied three more in the bottom of the third, keyed by a botched rundown.
With one out and two on, first baseman Kyle Leady sent a slow roller to the hole at short for an infield single, scoring left fielder Kyle Prats.
With Mullins at second and Leady at first, Jefferies spun or an inside pick move to second, seemingly having Mullins – who came into the game with 22 steals on the year – dead to rights.
“First and second, one out, he did a nice inside move, caught the guy right in the middle, and he gave the ball up,” Neu said. “[Preston] GrandPre had it, and arm-faked one time, and tried to run the guy down, and then [third baseman Lucas] Erceg vacated, didn’t think he was going to throw, and the Guy Dove into third, safe, and the runner behind him was safe. It ended up being a pretty big turn of events.”
Parrish then doubled down the right field line to plate two, putting the Camels up, 4-0.
“We picked a guy off, and we should have gotten the guy out,” said Neu. “Instead of it being two outs, runner at second, it was one out, runners at second and third, and the next guy jammed one down the line for a double. It was actually a pretty good pitch. He just hit it in the right spot, and they ended up scoring three that inning. It was just a tough inning that could have been avoided if we just executed an inside move. I don’t think [Jefferies] was the sharpest he’s been, but I still thought he was capable of winning the game. It’s just a tough, tough deal.
“We feel like, we probably get out of that inning with no runs, and they ended up scoring three,” Neu said of the third. “We could have given up one run, tops, but that would be it. We probably would have pitched a little differently, knowing that it was the last guy in their lineup. I was thinking if we were able to get [Mullins] quick, we could have made a play on the guy going to second, right away.”
Cal scratched across a run in the top of the fourth, when Erceg singled to center on the first pitch he saw from Campbell starter Heath Bowers (8-4), scoring Devin Pearson, who was aboard on a one-out single.
The Bears didn’t capitalize on several big scoring opportunities, leaving eight runners on base, including GrandPre at second in the top of the fifth. In the top of the sixth, Cal got two men on with one out, but saw catcher Brett Cumberland line out to third on a 1-0 offering, and left fielder Mitchell Kranson line out to center on an 0-2 pitch.
The Camels added another run in the bottom of the fifth on a single through the right side by Anthony Lopez, who went 2-for-4 on the day, following up two singles and a hit batter.
As Campbell lined up hits with runners aboard, the Bears continued to squander scoring chances, as one-out singles by Nick Halamandaris and second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz went unrewarded in the top of the seventh.
“We just couldn’t come up with the big hit when we needed it,” Neu said. “We had some opportunities, but we got down a little bit, and couldn’t get that big hit to get back in the game until later, but we were down by four at that point and needed to score four or five runs in the ninth.”
Cal finally got something going in the top of the ninth against reliever Bobby Thorson with Kranson slugging his third home run of the season to lead off the frame, and Halamandaris reaching second on a throwing error by Lopez on a grounder to short.
A payoff-pitch groundout by pinch hitter Brian Celsi moved Halamandaris to third, where he was able to score on a bunt over the mound by center fielder Aaron Knapp, but Pearson swung at the first pitch he saw and grounded into a fielder’s choice to third, giving the Bears just their second loss in the past seven games.
Bowers earned his eighth win of the season, going 8.0 innings, scattering nine hits and striking out four on 122 pitches.
“We had some opportunities with 11 hits,” Neu said. “The strike zone was a little wide. [Home plate umpire Brent Cardwell] was giving him some balls that really helped him out. He was a sinkerball guy, so he was good out of the zone, and he got some big outs with runners in scoring position. He did a pretty good job throwing strikes, and using the zone to his advantage.”
Cal and Campbell next face off at 11 a.m., Pacific, on Saturday, in the first game of a doubleheader, with Ryan Mason (5-2, 3.34 ERA) facing off against righty Nick Thayer (5-4, 2.94).
There is rain in the forecast for Saturday, which may hamper the ability to get both games in.
“Hopefully, we will,” said Neu. “Even if we got one, that would be better. We would definitely want to try to win that first one, just in case. It’s a pretty big game for us.”
Mason has had several shaky outings of late, giving up 9 earned runs in 17.1 innings of work on 23 hits in his past three games, going 1-2.
“I think it’s a good match-up for him,” Neu said. “Obviously, he’s going to have to execute his pitches, but it’s a predominantly right-handed lineup. They swing pretty early in the count, and if he’s pitching his game, he should be fine, getting some early outs and taking advantage of their aggressiveness a little bit. He hasn’t been lights-out the whole year. That’s Mason. When he’s going good, he’s really good, and he battles.”
The second game will see freshman lefty Matt Ladrech (6-4, 2.63) go against righty Grant Yost (3-4, 4.71), half an hour after the first game ends.
Ladrech is coming off his worst outing of the year, when he allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits in 1.2 innings against Arizona State.
“I think he’s fine,” Neu said. “It was obviously his worst outing in a year where he’s been so good in all those other outings. He threw a good bullpen. I think he’s ready to bounce back, here, and I think it’s a good match-up for him against an aggressive team. If he’s throwing his change up and sinking that ball a little bit, I think he can get some early, quick outs against them, too. I think he’s going to have a good game.
“I think both of our pitchers match up pretty well against their lineup, but they’ve got to execute pitches and make bit pitches in big spots. That’s probably the one thing we didn’t do. I think a two-out run in the first, and then the little jam job, I don’t think Jefferies was that bad, at all, but he needed to be a little bit more on early, and really take the game and just go with it. All of the sudden, that one mistake is a three-run mistake, and that’s what really kills you.”