Senior Brian Celsi goes 4-for-6 as Cal completes first-ever four-game sweep of Texas

Cal brings back echoes of the 2011 Baylor comeback, with a 10-7, 11th-inning win over Texas, sweeping the Longhorns in a four-game series for the first time in Texas baseball history.

The last time California came from at least six runs down to win was June 6, 2011, against Baylor, in Texas. Anyone who's followed the Cal baseball team knows how that ended.

On Sunday, the No. 13 Bears were also down big, and late, in the Lone Star State, and while they didn't walk off against No. 23 Texas, they did the 2011 team one run better, and did something historic in their 10-7 win: They completed a four-game sweep of the Longhorns for the first time in the illustrious history of Texas baseball. That's 79 four-game series, none of which have been swept by the Longhorns' opponent. Until Sunday. 

"It's not the highlight of our season," said head coach David Esquer. "It is a big part of our season, but we have some big things ahead of us."

Appropriately enough, it was senior team leader Brian Celsi -- who came into the game 10-for-39 (.256) with two RBIs -- who was the hero.

Celsi went 4-for-6 with four runs driven in, and a double, to lead the historic comeback, as the Bears scored eight two-out runs from the eighth inning on to take out the Longhorns in 11 innings. 

"Today was huge," Celsi said. "It was a huge team win, and it was nuts, being able to come back from a deficit like that. It really pushes. We're talking about pushing the bubble, pushing the limit of what we can do and trying to get better, but a seven-run deficit in the eighth, I don't think anyone was really expecting it."

Celsi also played second base for two innings late in the game so that the Bears could get more bats in the lineup and better runners on the base paths. He started eight games at second for the Green Bay Bullfrogs of the summer Northwoods League.

"I was like, 'Mom, Dad, I did it,'" Celsi joked. "Honestly, it was cool to see some trust. I'm happy that I was able to develop, or at least partially develop, a second position, so we're not in a bind there, to where we have options."

Esquer was told after Cal's 6-0 win on Saturday that the Longhorns had never been swept in a four-game series, but, he said, he wasn't going to fall into the trap of thinking about that, too much. The Bears, though, looked like they had something on their minds.

"We just didn't play well," Esquer said. "All the evidence in the first seven innings was that we were a step slow. A ball got by [Mitchell] Kranson for the first run, and he was a step slow to his left. A throw tipped off of [Brenden] Farney's glove, and we missed a pitch sign and a guy hits a three-run homer. A ball off the end of Farney's bat in the first that he hits really well, was just a little bit off. Everything was just a little bit off." Cal (9-3) fell behind early thanks to an abbreviated outing by lefty starter Matt Ladrech (who threw 50 pitches in 3.2 innings), and a four-run fifth featuring a Bret Boswell triple and a three-run home run by Kacy Clemens, at the expense of freshman Aaron Shortridge. The Bears trailed 7-0 headed into the top of the eighth.

"The players were really pushing," Esquer said. "There was no way they wanted to be shut out. They didn't want to go down lifeless on the last day."

After Kranson and Devin Pearson started off the eighth with a bloop double down the line and a rocket single up the middle, respectively, Franey struck out on three pitches by lefty reliever Nick Kennedy. A walk by Kennedy to catcher Brett Cumberland loaded the bases, but Nick Halamandaris flied out to left on an 0-2 offering.

With two outs, down by seven, even with the bases loaded, Cal looked finished. But, this bunch of Bears is different. They clearly didn't think they were done.

"You know, it's funny; I honestly didn't think those runs were going to be that big," Celsi said. "They were bogus RBIs, and I'm not saying there's anything wrong with bogus RBIs, but to have those at-bats, to get them across, Pearson has a fifth-year senior at-bat, we're not getting shut out in Texas. I kind of brushed it off, because I could see the writing on the wall -- ninth inning, down by five runs -- and next thing I know, we start teeing off. WIthout those two runs, those five don't get us to seven. It just goes to show that you can't throw away at-bats, and we've done a really good job as a team. We had 45 hits this weekend."

Celsi drove a single back up the middle on the second pitch he saw, scoring Pearson and Kranson and moving Cumberland to second. Cal still had life.

"When he got that base hit, that was promising, because we got two runs, but we made out right after, and weren't able to build on it," Esquer said. "It was a little piece, but still, a lot of things had to happen, first, for a rally to mount."

Closer Chas Shugart came on to get shortstop Ripken Reyes to fly out to left, but the door was open.

Esquer had seemingly closed that door in the seventh, starting to empty the bench with Reyes, Denis Karas and Jeffrey Mitchell coming in for Robbie Tenerowicz and Preston GrandPre, and moving Farney to second, then putting Halamandaris at first.

"I didn't think GrandPre and Tenerowicz were playing particularly well, at all, and I felt like it was time to get a look at someone else, for the day," Esquer said. "Plus, we were putting in guys that we thought would get hits. Denis and Mitchell were swinging the bats well, and we were figuring out what defense we'd have to play in order to keep all those bats still in the lineup. We moved Halamandaris to first, Farney played second for a couple innings and I was just trying to get as many bats in the lineup, and maybe a little less defense, but as many bats as we could, so we could hit our way into something."

After the Bears got on the board in the eighth, Sean Peters, pinch hitting for Mitchell in the top of the ninth, led off with a single. Junior center fielder Aaron Knapp then came up with his only hit in seven tries, rolling a single up the middle. But, the Bears don't ever do anything the easy way, as both Kranson and Pearson flew out.

With two down, Farney roped a full-count single to right center, scoring Peters. Farney then stole second, and then gave way to pinch runner Jonah Davis. A four pitch walk to Cumberland loaded the bases for Halamandaris, who came up with a two-run single to center on a 1-1 offering from Shugart. At 7-5, the game was now very much in reach.

Celsi then came up and sent an 0-1 slider to short for an infield single, driving in yet another run.

"I knew that was their dude, and he was a slider-heavy guy, and I got a first-pitch slider, so I thought I'm going to get a slider, and I got enough wood on it to get by the first baseman, the second baseman makes a play, dives, and if the pitcher didn't hesitate [to cover], it might be a bang-bang play at first, but it worked out," Celsi said. "I just kept turning the wheels for the guys behind me to get the next hit." Then, up stepped freshman Reyes -- who came into the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh. Reyes capped off a  five-run ninth by driving in the tying run when he got on top of a 3-2 curveball and sent a grounder to the hole at short caused some defensive issues for the Longhorns.

Shortstop Bret Boswell ranged back into the hole at short, fielded the ball and threw to first, but the ball bounced, and first baseman Kacy Clemens was unable to handle it. Boswell would have had Reyes by a step and a half, but instead, he was safe, as pinch runner -- and Friday night starter Daulton Jefferies -- starting from second, rounded third, hesitated after a wide turn, stumbled, but finally came around to score just under the tag.

"I actually got a 3-1 curveball, as well, and it was a little surprising, but it's a big situation, and I had to put the ball in play and do something to help the team win," Reyes said. "I didn't see Daulton trip. I heard a loud noise, and another one, and then I turn around and he dives in safe. I never had any doubt, never had any doubt in this team."

"Our bench went crazy," Esquer said. "It was a lot of fun."

Though that run was deemed unearned, and not an RBI, Reyes made up for it with an 11th-inning single to right to drive in Matt Ruff, putting the Bears up by two.

"It was slicing in the hole, so it was going to be a difficult play, and he kind of faded towards the outfield, and it didn't have much on it, and bounced in the turf," Esquer said of Reyes's shot. "The ball dropped out of the first baseman's glove, and Daulton was tripping around third, almost crawling home, similar to how he crawled home versus Stanford, when he scored the winning run."

In the bottom of the ninth, Esquer kept tinkering, putting backup catcher Ruff in at first after Jefferies ran for Halamandaris, moved Davis to left for Celsi, moved Celsi to second (where he'd played over the summer), subbed out Cumberland for freshman Tyrus Greene and slotted speedy Peters.

Ruff made a big pick in the bottom of the ninth in support of Dodson, saving a throwing error by Reyes, after the latter made a diving play in the hole at short. Celsi called the pick "Chris Paul-esque."

"That," Celsi said, "was when we knew we were winning this ballgame."

With four shut-down innings from Joey Matulovich and Tanner Dodson, Esquer decided to turn to his closer, Erik Martinez, who already had two saves on the weekend. Martinez, always at the ready, had his spikes on as he watched the Bears come back with the five-run ninth. Then, he headed down to the bullpen.

"I didn't think I was going to pitch today, at all," he said. "I thought there was no chance, with us being down seven. But, we found a way to come back, and I was excited to pitch. It was fun."

The last time the Bears came back from a deficit like that in Texas, the win all but propelled them to Omaha. Martinez wasn't even in high school yet. By the time the 10th rolled around, he was ready for his chance.

"When we got the game tied, we decided to go with him, first, because we felt really comfortable," Esquer said. "If he were able to hold them for another inning, it would give us another at-bat, and if somehow we took the lead, we were comfortable with the other guys behind him with a one-run lead, but we wanted Erik out there to extend the game for us."

Martinez went 2.0 shutout innings, needing just 27 pitches, and allowing one hit and no walks. In the top of the 11th, Cal put Martinez on top, scoring three more runs. After Greene took a one-out walk, and Ruff rapped out a 2-2 single -- his first hit of the year -- Celsi came up with two catchers on base and singled through the right side on a 1-0 fastball from Travis Duke, breaking the tie with the go-ahead run.

Reyes then drove in Ruff, and both he and Celsi were moved up by a sacrifice bunt from Peters. Knapp cashed in Celsi by using his speed to force another bad throw from Boswell on a two-out grounder for the final tally of the afternoon.

"Going into that last inning," Reyes said, "I knew we were going to win. Greatest comeback ever. I believed in them from the start, and I knew we were going to win the game. I had no doubt."

After striking out right fielder Brady Harlan and pinch hitter Ben Kennedy in the bottom of the 11th on his trademark two-seam fastball, Martinez allowed a 2-0 single to Patrick Mathis, and then a steal to pinch runner Tate Shaw.

"My wife always points out that, when games are tied, and you're going into extra innings, and a team scores some runs, the other team scores right back and scores the same amount of runs to end the game, and that happens a lot," Esquer said. "She pointed out to me that it makes sense, if you've been tied through nine innings, the rhythm of the game stays even, so why is that so surprising? I didn't want that rhythm to return, where they come back with a three-run inning."

Then, Boswell weakly fouled out to left, earning Martinez his first win of the season, after having saved two of the previous three games.

"It's super special, and this is a great group of guys," Martinez said. "It's not just ability that makes us so good, but we become greater teammates because of comebacks we make. You play together, you play hard."

Martinez ended things just in time, too, as the Bears had to high-tail their way to the airport for a 6:20 p.m. flight.

"It was going to be the last inning, because we had a 4 p.m. drop-dead, no inning starts after four," Esquer said. "When they relieved in the 11th, that sealed that it was going to be the last inning of the game. It was a one-inning game." Top Stories