COLLEGE STATION, Tex. -- The California baseball team got several key performances in Saturday’s 14-inning walk-off win over Texas A&M, but lost in the shuffle was the outing of closer Dylan Nelson.
The senior righty out of San Francisco (Calif.) Galileo by way of the College of San Mateo went a season-high 4.0 innings, throwing 52 pitches – two short of his high in 2015.
Nelson did have eight starts as a sophomore, when the Bears were short of arms in the second year following the cut of the program in Sept. 2010.
Nelson allowed just two hits and two walks, striking out two and starting a double play. The last time Nelson went at least 4.0 innings out of the bullpen was March 16, 2013 at Utah.
His career-high for innings pitched was 6.0 on March 4, 2013, at Rice.
Junior righty Ryan Mason got the no-decision, but went 8.0 innings, scattering six hits and allowing just a first-inning run.
Mason retired 13 of the next 15 batters after the first inning, and was 87-89 mph with his heavy fastball, flashing his 78-79 mph change up to keep hitters off balance.
“He was a big, lanky kid, and that fastball of his had some real run to it. His go-to pitch was his changeup, and I think we just kind of sped things up a little bit trying to extend our lead,” said Aggies head coach Rob Childress. “When we looked at him coming into the game, we noticed he didn’t strike out a lot of people, but he also didn’t walk a lot of people. He’s also a really good manager. If you look at his stats, he’s a really good game manager. He knows how to pitch.”
Mason lowered his ERA to 3.01, and has now thrown a team-high 98.2 innings. That’s the most innings Mason has ever thrown in a season, and it’s the most by any Cal pitcher since Matt Flemer threw 111.2 in 2012. Mason has not missed a single start this year.
Junior right fielder Devin Pearson singled in each of his first two at-bats against the Aggies. He now has six hits through the first two games of the College Station Regional (2-for-4 vs. Coastal Carolina, 4-for-7 vs. Texas A&M). He now has 14 multi-hit games this year (fourth on the team, behind Lucas Erceg’s 22, Chris Paul’s 21 and Aaron Knapp’s 20).
Pearson is now 30-for-67 since April 25 (.448).
Pearson, though, struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth against Aggies reliever Ryan Hendrix, who turned in his best outing of the year. Hendrix went a season-high 6.2 innings, scattering five this and one walk with 12 strikeouts, using his devastating 12-6 curveball to great effect. That curve, though, turned out to be his undoing.
“I was 100-percent sitting curveball on that one,” said 14th-inning hero Mitchell Kranson, who slugged the game-winning home run to right with one out in the final frame. “He had gotten countless guys out on his curveball, and he was predominantly throwing his curveball, the last couple innings. I had gotten out a couple innings before, and I knew it was going to be curveball-curveball, and I was sitting curveball on that one.”
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Kranson’s homer was a solo shot – the Bears’ first of the tournament. When runners were on base, neither the Bears nor the Aggies were particularly effective.
The two teams combined to leave 30 runners on base, with Cal leaving 17. Texas A&M left the bases loaded twice, and the Bears did it once.
The Aggies went 2-for-25 with runners on base, and 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
Not to be out-underwhelmed, the Bears hit .231 (6-for-26) with runners on base, and 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
Each team went 0-for-2 with runners on third and less than two outs.
With such struggles at the dish, Bears head coach David Esquer and hitting coach Brad Sanfilipo called upon freshman shortstop Preston GrandPre to bunt in the bottom of the ninth.
Cal got two men on thanks to a walk to Paul and a line shot up the middle by Kranson, who’s now 6-for-11 in the two Regional games. With the crowd razzing GrandPre for crowding the plate, and the home plate ump Bill McGuire for allowing it, Kranson took second on defensive indifference.
That opened a base for the Aggies to potentially walk GrandPre to get to the light-hitting Sean Peters. Peters – who had entered as a pinch runner for designated hitter Brett Cumberland with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and was left stranded when Pearson struck out – came into the game with just 16 at-bats. But, instead of walking GrandPre, Hendrix pitched to him, getting a swing and miss, and then the bunt to the right side, which was easily fielded by Hendrix to end the inning.
Chris Paul personally left two men on base, and his plate approach got sloppier the later the game went. As the game headed to extra innings, his swing got long – which it does, upon occasion – as he looked to try to slug his ninth home run of the year.
But, Paul did get the key seventh-inning single that tied the game. He went 1-for-5 on the night, but he’s got 12 hits in his last 28 at-bats.
Kranson’s home run was his fifth of the year, and his 18th RBI. He has an RBI in both games in College Station, and Saturday was his eighth multi-hit game of the season.
Cal held Texas A&M to a 1-for-12 performance with two outs, and allowed just one extra-base hit. The Aggies came into the game hitting .307 on the season, and hit .311 against the SEC.
This was the first time this season that the Aggies had been held to one run or fewer.
Texas A&M is now 2-4 all-time against the Bears, and Saturday’s loss was the first this year by the Aggies against a team not from the SEC.
With 16 strikeouts from Hendrix and Long, the Aggies fanned double digit opponents for the 22nd time this season.
Texas A&M designated hitter Mitchell Nau extended his hitting streak to six games.
Cal second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz went 2-for-6, extending his hitting streak to three games. He’s 5-for his last-14.