BERKELEY -- The wind coming in from right field can be a 10th defender at Evans Diamond, and on Friday, Zephyrus was on the side of No. 20 California.
The Bears saw no fewer than three balls hit by No. 3 Oregon State be eaten up by the breezes over Edwards Track Stadium, while two titanic shots -- one in the second by catcher Brett Cumberland and another in the fourth by Mitchell Kranson -- went over the wall to right for Cal, as the Bears beat the Beavers 5-0, taking their first series from Oregon State since 2010.
"It's a big deal," said head coach David Esquer. "A quality team like that, the No. 3 team in the nation, they're every bit that type of team that can play at the end of the year. We've got to prove to ourselves that not only can we win one game, but we can take a series. You have to have pitching and defense, and we left guys on base, so it may not have been as comfortable as we might have liked, but pitching and defense, even when they made some contact, we made plays."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1643615-all-aboard-the-cra... For the second straight game, Cal (13-6, 3-2 in Pac-12) held the Pac-12's best offense in check. The No. 3 Beavers (16-4, 3-2) came into the series hitting .331, but over the past two nights, they've gone 8-for-61, thanks to Daulton Jefferies and Friday's starter, senior Ryan Mason, who threw 104 pitches -- 70 for strikes -- and walked just one, allowing four hits as the Bears banged out nine.
Mason bounced back from two straight rough outings to record his first win since March 5, getting nine groundouts, 11 fly outs and seven strikeouts, allowing just four hits in his third career complete game -- following one on May 9 at Campbell (a 4-0 win) and May 11, 2014 (a 4-1 win at USC). Mason's career record now stands at 21-8.
"I actually had a slider tonight, and it was a good one, it was a big pitch for me," Mason said. "It got them off my fastball and change up, and I had good command of my fastball. Later innings, I got a little amped up, but I got back in."
He dedicated the win to Betty Ann Erpen, his fiancé's grandmother, who passed away three days ago. He was by his fiancé's side when it happened.
"Mase was good," Cumberland said. "He was throwing firm today, and his ball had some movement, like it always does, and his change up was darting. It was a good pitch. He was just doing his thing, out there competing."
Andrew Moore and Drew Rasmussen threw complete games against Cal in the first two games of the series last year in Pullman, and thanks to Mason and Jefferies Cal has returned the favor.
In his previous two starts, Mason had gone 0-1, allowing six earned runs in 6.2 innings of work, with 13 hits and two walks to just one strikeout.
"Early command, the ball was down, but the defense was different," Mason said. "We've been struggling a bit, defensively. "This game could not have been more solidly played. There were great routes on the outfield, the infield was knocking everything down and making plays. I'm a defense pitcher. I had a few punch outs tonight, but when they're on, I'm on."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1655063-jefferies-goes-the... "Pretty typically, he's had a few, every year, he'll have just a little stretch where he struggles a bit," Esquer said. "By the end of the year, he's winning. I think he's had that stretch."
The 6-foot-6 right-handed sinkerballer got plenty of help from his defense, as for the second straight game, Cal played errorless, with Kranson plying his trade quite well at third, with a short-hop backhand pick to start the fifth and a spinning play on a roller by Logan Ice to end the frame. Brian Celsi also made two diving plays in right, with the second coming in the top of the fifth, when he slid and corralled a sinking liner by Caleb Hamilton, and threw to second to erase Trever Morrison, who was aboard with a one-out walk.
"I think we're turning the corner," Esquer said of his defense, which had committed 11 errors over a span of four games, previously. "That's every bit as much a rhythm part of the game as offense, and every other aspect. I think we're starting to feel a little bit like we can play that frustrating defense with our pitching."
Robbie Tenerowicz was also scintillating at second, gloving a would-be single up the middle by Christian Donahue in the top of the third, stopping on a dime and throwing to first for the final out of the frame. Tenerowicz also came around to score in the bottom of the sixth, when a grounder to third by his double play partner Preston GrandPre was overthrown by third baseman Cadyn Grenier, allowing GrandPre to reach third and cash in a one-out double by Tenerowicz.
Offensively, a night after going 0-for-2, but still reaching on a walk and an error on Thursday, Cumberland went 2-for-2 with a run and two RBIs, driving in one on single in the bottom of the fifth, after a wild pitch by starter Jake Thompson, while trying to intentionally walk Cumberland, went over Ice's head. Cumberland now has seven home runs in 19 games, well ahead of the pace Lucas Erceg set last year, when he led the team with 11.
Cumberland hurt his wrist -- and was playing with three bone bruises and a strained ligament in his right hand -- in the middle of last season, but this year, he said, he's completely healthy, and it's shown. He's started the year on a 23-for-56 (.411) tear, with 13 walks and six HBP, making for a .560 on-base percentage, and he's posted an .875 slugging percentage, with five doubles and seven homers.
"I just kept playing, wanted to help the team as much as I could, but I probably would have been better off sitting it out and letting it heal first," Cumberland said of his freshman campaign. "It's just being healthy, that's all you can ask for. When you're healthy, you don't have to change anything in your swing. Last year, I had tweaked some things, just the way I finished, so my hand wouldn't hurt. It's real nice to be healthy."
Esquer said he'd never seen anyone get as hot as Cumberland has been, with the relatively new, deader bats instituted in 2011.
"It's taken a while for guys to kind of get used to them, where you have guys who can produce power like that," Esquer said. "Those early years, there were no home runs. He's done a great job, and some big at-bats by some guys. We left some guys on the bases, but still a good win."
Cumberland's tater in the bottom of the second came only moments after Trever Morrison sent a high drive to right that got caught up in the teeth of the wind for the second out, rather than a two-run home run. Mason said the ball was towards the end of Morrison's bat, so he knew right off the rip that it was going to get caught. Still, Cumberland's shot was a rainmaker.
"We have one of the unique fields where, in the evenings, the wind blows less, and it plays a little bit more offensive, but it still takes a thunder bolt to go out to center," Esquer said. "You can get out to the corners a little bit easier in the evening. The flags dropped for us, and that made it better for us."
"Any given day at Evans, whether you're hitting to left field or right field, it's just a matter of barreling it up," Cumberland said.
The Bears will start sophomore righty Jeff Bain in the series finale, against Beavers righty Travis Eckert (2-1, 3.12 ERA) in a game now scheduled for 12:30 p.m.