Brett Cumberland clears the track grandstand, Devin Pearson hits the RSF windows and El Gaucho Mitchell Kranson goes yard

BERKELEY -- The No. 12 Cal baseball team slugs three dingers on the day, with Devin Pearson going 3-for-3, catcher Brett Cumberland socking a three-run job that cleared the track grandstand and El Gaucho joining the tater parade.

BERKELEY -- California catcher Brett Cumberland provided the defensive play of the year with a strike-em-out-throw-em-out to get out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the fifth, and after a single by Devin Pearson and a broken-bat cue shot from Brenden Farney in the bottom of the frame, he got work done with the bat, sending a high, arching three-run blast into the night -- and into Edwards Track Stadium -- highlighting a a 10-0 win for the Bears (3-2) over visiting Purdue.

Cal -- which led the Pac-12 with 45 home runs last season -- did not have a single long ball this year, but slugged three balls out of the yard on Friday night.

"We hadn't hit one all year, and we had them practicing bunting, because I thought if we're not going to hit home runs, we bunt well," head coach David Esquer said. "I think I made them mad by doing that yesterday."

Cumberland had come into the game 3-for-13 on the season, with just one extra-base hit. 

"The Duke series, I'd felt fine, but it's just baseball; it happens," he said. "It's going to happen in the middle, and it could happen at the end."

Though the sophomore switch hitter finished the day 1-for-4, that one made a big impression.

"[Nick] Halamandaris does it all the time in practice, on a regular basis," Cumberland said of his titanic tater. "They were going fastball-change up, and it was a 3-1 count and they gave me a fastball right down the middle, and I tried to take advantage of it. I don't know if I'll hit another one harder [than that]."

On a cold, wet night, the fact that Cumberland was able to go so deep to right -- where the ball rarely carries -- was fairly astounding for the 17th-year head coach.

"That was a real homer," Esquer said. "It was about time."

Cumberland's batterymate -- projected first-round pick Daulton Jefferies -- played to over two dozen scouts in the stands, painting the corners and throwing in the low-90s with his fastball, while also dazzling with his 82-83 slider.

"He's pretty unflappable," Esquer said. "His demeanor, his body language, he's pretty calm. He doesn't get too excited. He did a nice job. That's a Friday night outing that you'd like to have."

Jefferies struck out eight Boilermakers in 6.0 innings of work, throwing 94 pitches and allowing three hits and one walk.

"His fastball was just electric today," said Cumberland. "He was just blowing it by them. Daulton's pretty phenomenal. He's fun to catch."

As for the momentum-saving play behind the dish? 

"The guy swung, but it was a fastball -- a good pitch to throw him out -- and Daulton's pretty quick to the plate, and he did a great job," Cumberland said of cutting down left fielder Nick Dalesandro at second.

Cumberland's shot wasn't the end of the hit parade -- in fact, it was just the second act. In the bottom of the third, Pearson sent a high drive off of the windows of the RSF, with Dalesandro not even moving a step.

"He threw me a first-pitch slider up for a ball, and I just knew if he threw it again and hung it, I was going to take a hack on it," Pearson said. "It was one you pray for. It was perfect."

Pearson came into the game 4-for-15 on the year, and struggling to find his stroke.

"I don't know if something was off, but it was more my timing and feeling comfortable in the box," Pearson said of his early struggles. "Tonight, I felt really good in the box. I felt like my old self."

Pearson has been dealing with a shoulder issue -- structural, he said, though he would not elaborate -- and has been having trouble throwing, but his bat was just fine on Friday. Pearson finished the day 3-for-3, with two RBI, giving him three on the season, after hitting .355 with 12 doubles and 22 RBIs a year ago.

"That looked like the Devin Pearson of last year," Esquer said. "All three of those hits -- the home run, he fought one off into left field, and then he ran a base hit into the ground -- for me, those are the hits you remember him having last year. He hadn't seen them yet, and he was scratching for a couple hits, here and there, so that was good to see."

"It felt good to come out here, string some hits together and score some RBIs; it felt good," Pearson said. "Cumberland just had to one-up me there."

While Cumberland got the big blow, he's still second in the team RBI race behind shortstop Preston GrandPre. After missing Tuesday with a sore foot (he fouled a ball off of it during last weekend's series finale against Duke), the sophomore keystone man went 1-for-2 with a two-run double -- a line drive over first baseman Kyle Wood -- in the bottom of the second to get the Bears out to a quick 2-0 lead. GrandPre now has five runs driven in on the campaign.

El Gaucho, Mitchell Kranson, continued his hot hitting, with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth, on a 1-2 offering from reliever Eddie De LaRiva. Kranson, like he did on Tuesday, also hit a shot to straight-away center, which was gloved easily, as he slammed his bat into the ground. Kranson said on Tuesday that he knows all too well that center field at Evans Diamond, and that during batting practice before that game against San Francisco, he'd hit the one and only ball he'd ever hit off the wall in center. The cold, wet wind kept three balls inside the yard on Friday.

Cal went small in the latter innings, with back-to-back RBI singles from Denis Karas and senior Brian Celsi in the bottom of the eighth to cap off scoring.

Freshmen Jonah DavisJeffrey Mitchell and Lorenzo Hampton all made their Cal debuts, while fellow freshmen  Tanner Dodson and Ripken Reyes also got in late, with Reyes playing second and Dodson as a pinch hitter.

If the Bears shut out the Boilermakers again on Saturday at 6 p.m., pitchers get to take batting practice next week.

"They're pushing pretty hard," said Esquer.

Dalesandro faces off with Ryan Mason in the second game of the series, with the entire bullpen well-rested, after Jesse Kay and Jordan Talbot tossed three scoreless innings of relief, with two hits allowed, one walk and three strikeouts.

"Going into this weekend series with four games coming, and starting on Thursday next week, we're trying to be a little more not reckless with those arms," Esquer said. "Plus, we wanted to check some of the boxes off with a couple guys to see if they can actually help us with live hitters. [Talbot] recorded three outs, which was good, and some of those pitches, you thought, 'God, if he just keeps repeating that pitch, he'll be in good shape.' He tied one right hander up, and you'd like to see that over and over and over again, and he can be a factor."


BearTerritory.net Top Stories