Sue Tenerowicz

Cal drops 4-3 decision to Oregon as Matt Krook fans nine

A day after setting a PK Park record with 21 hits, Cal's bats fall silent against lefty Matt Krook, who struck out nine in 6.2 innings, and allowed just two hits.

There's a reason that Oregon lefty Matt Krook was a supplemental first-round MLB Draft pick out of high school: He's dirty. Just plain nasty. And against No. 9 California on Saturday, he was nigh-unhittable, as the Ducks took a 4-3 decision at PK Park to even the series at 1-1.

Krook was effectively wild -- with six walks -- but he worked in the zone enough to keep aggressive Bears hitters guessing, and that's exactly what Cal did, striking out nine times and going just 3-for-14 with runners on base and 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. 

"He was wild enough to be effective; he could miss big and then come back in the zone a couple times," said head coach David Esquer. "We weren't real patient on him, and that may have helped. He wants you to dive, obviously, but when the ball was in the zone, and we didn't square it up. That's the bottom line. We didn't square him up. He did a good job there. You've got to play a good ballgame against him, when he pitches, because he's going to give you something, and you have to take advantage of it.

The Bears left six runners stranded over the course of the day, and only managed five total hits, with an RBI single off the bat of Nick Halamandaris with two outs in the top of the eighth the only hint of late spark.

Halamandaris got his only hit of the day off of right-handed closer Stephen Nogosek, after having fanned twice against Krook, looking as lost as any other Cal hitter on the day.

Leadoff man Devin Pearson took the 0-for-5 collar, and didn't reach base once, striking out three times, while three hitter Mitchell Kranson struck out twice, as did shortstop Preston GrandPre

"We had a couple opportunities and didn't take advantage of it," Esquer said. "Devin struck out with second and third and no outs, where contact would have scored two runs, and we only got one out of it." Cal (19-8, 8-3 in Pac-12) -- which saw a seven-game conference winning streak halted -- wasted a bounce-back outing from righty Jeff Bain, who, other than two key mistakes -- a leadoff home run by Austin Grebeck in the bottom of the first, and a two-run homer to right by A.J. Balta in the bottom of the fifth -- was as good as he was last season, during a Freshman All-American campaign, working down in the zone with a running fastball and mixing in his off-speed and breaking pitches to get swings and misses, while also elevating his fastball to get hitters to chase.

Bain went 7.0 innings -- his longest start of the season -- and allowed four hits and three walks, striking out five and allowing all four runs (three earned).

"His angle on the fastball was way better, and for me, he had down-angle, so he pitched way better," Esquer said. "I'm happy with the whole body of work, which was better, but mistakes don't help you when you're facing a guy like Krook."

Grebeck went 1-for-3 atop the Oregon lineup, adding a walk and scoring two runs on the day, as Bain and freshman Joey Matulovich (who pitched a perfect eighth) held the Ducks (13-12, 3-5) to just four hits.

After going down on six pitches in the top of the second, the Bears answered the solo shot from Grebeck in the top of the third, when second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz sent a bouncer over the mound. Charging shortstop Travis Moniot couldn't barehand the ball, giving Tenerowicz an infield single. GrandPre failed to get a bunt down three times, and fouled is third attempt up the first base line for the first out of the inning. After a five-pitch walk to Celsi, Krook got a called breaking ball on the outside corner to sit Pearson down. Center fielder Aaron Knapp sent a line drive back up the middle on the first pitch he saw, bringing Tenerowicz around to score on a one-hop throw to the plate that kicked off of catcher Slade Heggen's foot.

Oregon responded in the bottom of the frame, though. Bain dealt a full-count walk to Grebeck, but then got what looked like a double play ball off the bat of Kyle Kasser. But, Bain's throw to second was wide left of GrandPre covering the bag, allowing Grebeck to reach third, and Kasser to reach second. A sacrifice fly by Balta inched the Ducks ahead, as Oregon scored without the benefit of a hit in the inning.

"Facing a tough match-up like Krook, you can't give them much," Esquer said. "They hit an 0-2 home run to lead off the game, and then the come backer that he threw away at first, even though they might have only got one, and then another 0-2 homer."

Cal tied things back up in the fifth, as GrandPre reached when a throw from Moniot pulled first baseman Tim Susnara off the bag, Celsi worked a walk, and a wild pitch to Pearson allowed both runners to advance. After Pearson fanned, Knapp sent a high chopper to first, and while Susnara thought about going home, instead went to the bag, allowing the run to score.

That tie, too, didn't last long, as after getting two quick outs -- striking out Moniot and getting Grebeck to pop out to Brett Cumberland behind the plate -- Bain issued a seven-pitch walk to Kasser, and then served up an 0-2 meat ball to Balta.

Balta's home run cost the Bears more than just a pair of runs. It cost them their starting right fielder, Brian Celsi. The senior outfielder vaulted up, off the top of the right field wall and then over it, nearly snaring the drive, but instead coming up empty and landing on his upper back and neck. He lay crumbled in the Cal bullpen, but then left the field under his own power several minutes later, after trainers from both teams attended to him.

"He had his bell rung climbing over the fence, and will probably be out tomorrow," Esquer said. "If he's got a headache after bumping his head, we're going to be extra cautious."

Farney has had three misadventures in left field so far this series -- two misplayed angles on Friday and a dropped fly ball in the first on Saturday, but with Celsi now out, Esquer will keep Farney -- and his bat -- in left, and most likely start freshman Jeffrey Mitchell in right on Sunday, though, he said, Denis Karas is an option.

"We're going to keep him out there, even though he dropped that ball today," Esquer said. "It didn't hurt us, but it set the tone for the game. We had a lot of little mistakes that, when you add it up, we can play with any team in the country, especially the elite teams in the country, but you can't when you make a lot of little mistakes like that. Tough ballgame to lose. We were in it. We gave ourselves an opportunity. I know we're tough to beat, but we don't want to make it easier by doing things like that."

Singles in the eighth by Kranson and Farney set up the run-scoring knock by Halamandaris, but after a grueling eight-pitch at-bat, Tenerowicz grounded into a fielder's choice at short to end the Bears' scoring chance.

In Sunday's noon rubber match, the Bears will send lefty Matt Ladrech to the mound against sophomore southpaw  David Peterson. The 6-foot-6, 242-pounder out of Denver, Colo., started 14 games last year with a 4.39 ERA, but has missed his last three turns in the rotation due to injury. Peterson has gone 2-2 in five starts this season with a microscopic 1.42 ERA and a .202 batting average against. He's struck out 33 and walked 11 in 31.2 innings of work.

"He's in the same mold, a little bit of the same mold as the kid last night, Cole Irvin," Esquer said. "A different style. He's not as much of a stuff guy like Krook. Krook's going to try to stuff you with that fastball, and get you out with the slider. He's a different kind of pitcher, but very capable." Top Stories