BERKELEY -- On Saturday, California head coach David Esquer said that leadoff man and center fielder Aaron Knapp needed something to key a bounce back. He was hitting just .160 on the season. An infield single behind the bag at shortstop was, apparently, all he needed.
After Purdue scored two runs in the top of the first, on a two-run, two-out double by Kyle Johnson, the Bears batted around in the bottom of the frame, with Knapp getting two infield singles -- including one on a grounder to second -- and catcher Mitchell Kranson rocking two RBI doubles en route to an eight-hit, eight-run first.
"Duke, I played well, got four hits out there, but I was a little jumpy here, at home," said Knapp, who had gone 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series against Purdue. "It was nice to get the monkey off my back. I'll take the cheapies, and then I got a real one at the end. You've just got to stick with it."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1646640-mason-strikes-out-... That was all the No. 12 Bears (5-2) needed, as they cruised to a series sweep a fourth straight win, 15-5, and Knapp finished 3-for-5.
Every Cal starter on Sunday came into the game with at least one RBI, and seven of the nine recorded at least one RBI in Sunday's game.
"You still see things that will keep you from winning in the future," said head coach David Esquer. "Ladrech has got to be better. He just does. He's fighting himself. But, hey, sometimes, you've got to come out and not have your best stuff and still give your team a chance to win."
Sunday's starter -- lefty Matt Ladrech -- ground through a 19-pitch first inning, throwing 78 over the next five shutout frames, as he hung on for the win, his first of the season.
"He hasn't been sharp in his first two outings, but he will be," Esquer said. "Hes a touch-and-feel guy, and those guys, it's a fine line."
Laderch scattered six hits and three walks as he tightroped his way through the rest of the game, but once he was gone, Cal's pitching fortunes changed. Reliever Jesse Kay, who's seen action in each of the previous two games, faced five batters and recorded just one out in the top of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double to right, and throwing two balls that got by Kranson, before allowing an RBI seeing-eye single to left by Cody Strong and a walk.
Freshman Joey Matulovich -- who started Tuesday's game in his first collegiate action -- went 2.2 innings, allowing two hits and striking out one.
Kranson -- catching in place of Brett Cumberland, who went 4-for-4 with a home run and two doubles on Saturday night -- went 2-for-3 with three RBIs on the day, and was taken out in the top of the seventh after taking a wild pitch to the wrist, allowing freshman Tyrus Greene to make his collegiate debut.
"We had planned on it," Esquer said, of giving Cumberland a rest. "We're kind of looking long-term here, with four games in a row, which would be the best game to get Kranny back there, and it was the day game after a night game, so it just made sense. We're thinking big picture here. Cumby will eventually be ready to catch four games, but maybe not right away."
Kranson was not happy when he was pulled late.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1646385-no-12-bears-blast-... "He was pissed," Esquer said. "He was pissed that it even happened, but better safe than sorry. Ball in the dirt, Jesse's tough to catch. He throws the ball hard and in the dirt a lot."
Taking Kranson's place at third was sophomore Denis Karas, who socked his first collegiate home run onto the roof of the RSF in that eight-run first, and went 2-for-5 on the day.
"I was just trying to be aggressive, and put a good swing on it," Karas said.
After Knapp led off with the cue shot to short, Kranson rocketed a double into the right center field gap to plate the first run of the game. A roller by Devin Pearson under the glove of third baseman Jacson McGowan and then off the glove of shortstop Harry Shipley allowed him to reach, and then first baseman Brenden Farney -- who had two sparkling grabs in foul ground on the afternoon -- rolled a grounder through the right side for an RBI single.
"It was nice to finally get in on the action," Farney said. "I was seeing everybody else get in this weekend, and it's nice to finally be a part of it."
Then, it was Karas's turn, as he turned on a thigh-high change up on the first pitch he saw and deposited it on the roof of the RSF in left for Cal's sixth home run of the series.
A second-pitch opposite field double off the bat of Nick Halamandaris -- who's now 10-for-27 on the season -- spelled the end for Boilermakers starter Gavin Downs, and after reliever Tanner Schumacher one out, Robbie Tenerowicz poked a single up the middle to drive in another run. Schumacher finally got a groundout from shortstop Preston GrandPre, but Knapp then beat out a roller to second, setting the stage for Kranson's second RBI double -- a first-pitch scorcher into the right field corner to clear the bases.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1645307-cal-opens-home-sla... Farney's two over-the-shoulder grabs in foul ground -- one in the top of the second that saw him reach into the stands to pull one back, and another over the shoulder in the top of the fourth -- were two of the defensive highlights, as were two plays in the hole by GrandPre.
"It makes it a lot easier when Robbie's telling me exactly where to run," said Farney, a converted middle infielder, who Esquer intimated could be this year's Chris Paul (the converted shortstop who became Cal's All-Pac-12 first baseman last season). "He's telling me, 'keep going back, keep going back, stalk it, stalk it, wall,' man, it makes it a lot easier when Robbie's over there."
In the second, Karas reached base after taking a pitch on the hip. After stealing second, and advancing one base on a wild strikeout pitch, he scored on a wild throw to first by catcher Jake Picchiotti.
The Bears added another run in the bottom of the third, when a two-out walk by Kranson was cashed in by Farney on a line-drive single through the left side, Farney's second hit of the day, as he finished 2-for-4.
Cal plated a pair in the eighth with a first-pitch line-drive double by GrandPre over the third baseman's head brought home Halamandaris -- aboard with a leadoff single -- and senior Brian Celsi -- aboard with a single to center -- rode home on a RBI groundout by Knapp to make it 12-2.
The Bears tacked on three more in the bottom of the eighth, when an RBI double off the center field wall by Celsi cashed in Halamandaris -- who reached on an infield single to third to lead off the eighth. Pinch hitter Sean Peters lanced an RBI single to right to cash in Celsi, giving Cal a 14-5 lead, and a 2-2 liner the other way by Greene tacked on another, as the freshman backstop tallied his first career hit, and his first career RBI.