BERKELEY -- No. 12 California's senior left fielder -- and erstwhile first baseman and second baseman -- Brenden Farney didn't play baseball for 21 months while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He left as one of the Golden Bears' most consistent hitters -- having hit .308 in 2014 for a team that narrowly missed the postseason. He had to sit along for the ride in 2015 as Cal finally got back to the dance for the first time since 2011, but didn't even get to travel to College Station, Tex., for the Regional.
He's not missing anything, these days. On Saturday, he crushed two home runs for his first career multi-home run game, and drove in five of Cal's eight runs, clinching a series win and an 8-2 comeback win over UCLA.
"Seeing what they accomplished last year, made me want to be a part of it," said Farney. "I didn't care what role I had to play. I was OK with playing first base, DHing, outfield, I just wanted to be a part of it. I got to give a lot of credit to Eskie [head coach David Esquer] on that one, because he told me, 'Just stay ready, because next year, you're going to fall right in line, and you don't have to do too much, because we're going to have a good team.' Sure enough, he's right."
The Bears (17-6, 6-2 in Pac-12) are now tied for first in the conference with Utah, and have won six straight games and two straight Pac-12 series. They're hitting .291 (fourth in the league) with a 2.82 ERA (second) and are second in the Pac-12 with 16 home runs.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1657296-mason-deals-in-eme... "We talk about it all the time -- for us to be successful, we've got to pitch and play better defense, like we have, but we need a different hero up and down the lineup," Esquer said. "It was his turn tonight, and we're going to need him throughout the year. He's an older hitter, and I think we got some old at-bats out there, some guys who have been around for a long time. You may get the once, but you're not going to get them three or four times. That's the sign of some age, and even yesterday, Farney had a couple at-bats where they got him, but he wasn't going to come out today and let that happen."
Farney -- now hitting .295 with three round-trippers and 20 RBIs -- wasn't the only masher in the Bears' the 11-hit attack, as El Gaucho, Mitchell Kranson, slugged a leadoff solo shot in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Cal fell behind early, 2-0, in the top of the first, as starter Jeff Bain allowed two runs on three hits and a walk, throwing a laborious 25 pitches to the Bruins, while giving up back-to-back rocket doubles off the bats of Eric Fillia and Sean Bouchard.
"I was totally battling my own mechanics," said Bain. "I was being really uncompetitive, and a lot of pitches were lacking a lot of feel."
Bain, pitching in place of Ryan Mason, who moved up to take ace Daulton Jefferies's spot on Friday due to leg stiffness, was flat, sluggish and couldn't get swings and misses. It looked to be a very short night for the Freshman All-American, who went just 0.1 innings in his last start.
"I thought, 'Here we go again,'" said Bain, who's allowed five runs (all earned) on 11 hits and six walks, with three home runs surrendered over 6.1 innings in his last three outings. "I think I've been in my own head a little bit the last few times out."
But, Esquer stuck with him, after a brief meeting of the minds on the mound. The message? Get your act together.
"I had to light a fire a little bit," Esquer said. "I thought he was just kind of falling into that 'Here we go again' mode, and that's not what this team needs. This team needs someone to go out there and compete and fight for it and go down swinging. Throw a punch, if you're going to go down. I didn't think he was throwing any punches. He was tiptoeing through the lineup."
Esquer was rewarded with a 6.1-inning outing over which Bain allowed just five more hits over the next 5.1 innings, and not another run.
"I thought he got closer to where he was when he was at his best," Esquer said. "Not there yet, and there's better in him. I don't mean to sound ungrateful for such a good performance tonight, but there's better in him. There's more control, there's more command, there's more swing-and-miss, there's more down-angle on the fastball. But, he competed. He had to gut through to even get through the game. He was up for the majority of the night, but he still got outs, and you can't minimize that."
"I settled in, filled up the zone, and things get better," Bain said.
"Bain started some spot starts last year on Fridays, and he's one of the best in the business," Farney said. "Everybody goes through their rough outings, so it was good to see him bounce right back and clear that. We're going to need him, and he showed up tonight."
After Bain's interminable first, Cal roughed up UCLA starter Grant Dyer, with three straight one-out singles from Aaron Knapp, Kranson and Brett Cumberland plating a run, followed by a first-pitch three-run opposite field wall-scraper by Farney to left field on a fastball from Dyer, that got a not inconsiderable amount of help from the wind.
"I got a lot of help, a lot of help," Farney said. "I was telling my teammates, I'll take what I can get. I must have picked up a piece of trash or did some good graces or something."
The four-run first helped Bain relax down, and breathe a bit easier.
"Oh, definitely, the four runs in the first, that's huge," he said. "It makes you feel like you have a little more leeway, and you can pitch to contact a little bit more. That's really comforting."
That would prove to be all the Bears needed, but Cal tacked on another two in the bottom of the third.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1657516-cal-snags-cf-commi...After a leadoff solo shot from Kranson -- a no-doubter to right, his fourth -- senior Brian Celsi rocked the fifth pitch he saw back through the box, nearly taking Dyer's head off, for a single.
Up stepped first baseman Nick Halamandaris, who sent a shot inside the first base line for a sure double. The throw from right field took catcher Daniel Rosica up the line, and then hopped over his shoulder, allowing Celsi -- who came around third with a head of steam -- to come around to score.
Cal added two more runs on a first-pitch Farney round-tripper in the bottom of the fifth, as he took advantage of a curveball up in the zone.
"On the scouting report -- our coaches did a good job with the scouting report today -- they said he was a two-pitch guy, fastball-curveball, occasional change up, but they like to elevate their fastballs," Farney said. "I was just able to meet that one."
Farney had not hit a single home run in his previous three seasons, and was more of a punch-and-Judy hitter before he spent a year on the shelf. The thought of nights like this kept him hungry.
"It took a long time for it to come back," Farney said. "I had [power] at one point in my life -- when I was in Little League -- but my team was really rooting for me, and it helps, not having to pressure myself, because we've got so many guys. Kranson hit another home run tonight, Halamandaris has the thunder in his stick, doubles every game, and Cumberland, leading the Pac-12 in home runs. It's a lot easier on me."
Bain moved to 3-1 on the season, while Dyer -- who gave up eight runs (all earned) on 10 hits in 6.1 innings -- dropped to 1-2.
Freshman Joey Matulovich threw 2.2 no-hit innings with three strikeouts to one walk.
"A great job coming off a Tuesday where he walked the first two guys and we got him out of there," Esquer said. "Some guys get a little sensitive and maybe don't handle getting pulled like that, but we're really working with these freshmen to get them to be contributors on the mound, and put them in some tougher spots as we get moving here. That's a necessity for us. We have to have the development of those guys, so that they're sophomores by mid-to-late year."
Cal will send sophomore lefty Matt Ladrech to the mound on Sunday, going for its second straight sweep, in a 1 p.m. finale against the Bruins. Ladrech tossed 7.2 no-hit innings in relief last weekend against then-No. 3 Oregon State.
"He had a good ballgame against them last year, but this is more about this year," Esquer said. "He was way better than he's been all this year, in his last outing."