BERKELEY -- No. 24 California had seen a paucity of breaks go in its favor in recent weeks -- from the prolonged absence of ace Daulton Jefferies, to a game-winning run being called back due to a single cleat touching the black of the plate on a suicide squeeze, to three interference calls over the course of a weekend, to not having either of its top two starting pitchers -- Jefferies and Ryan Mason -- available against Arizona.
On Saturday, in the second game against red-hot Washington, Cal got an infield hit off of starter Joe DeMers's behind, while a ball hit by the Huskies went off of Bears starter Tanner Dodson's knee and rolled right to first base to end an inning.
Cal got a call on a play at the plate, as center fielder Aaron Knapp, then a play at the plate that saw Huskies catcher Joey Morgan miss a tag on Robbie Tenerowicz. The Bears got a booted ball and then a hesitation on a grounder by second baseman Levi Jordan that led to a run in the bottom of the third and timely hitting from Tenerowicz, who drove in four in the Bears' 7-1 win over the Huskies.
Tenerowicz went 2-for-3, and leads Cal in Pac-12 play with a .363 batting average and 19 RBI, with two home runs, to boot. He's also tied with Mitchell Kranson for first on the team in total bases in Pac-12 play, with 44. Tenerowicz has a six-game hitting streak going, over which he's batting 12-for-25 (.480) with 12 RBIs.
"I give him credit -- he stayed true to his approach, which is to the middle of the diamond," head coach David Esquer said. "Sometimes he can get away from that, but he didn't. In the big spot, he stayed right with it to the middle of the diamond, with two big hits."
"I got a lot of fastballs today," Tenerowicz said. "I think U-Dub thinks that DeMers throws hard, but I don't think he throws hard. They didn't throw me many off-speed, which is probably a good idea on their part."
Cal played four runs on four hits in the bottom of the seventh -- Washington's least-scored-upon inning over the course of the season -- to down the Huskies, and move to 24-15 overall, 10-10 in Pac-12 play, after having dropped eight of its previous nine conference games.
"It's back to the older style of offense that we've played in the past," said Esquer, who had four of his hitters at least square around to bunt, calling multiple slashes -- including one that resulted in an RBI double by Tenerowicz in the bottom of the sixth.
That older style of offense helped the Bears get ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the third, when Jordan made a diving stop on a roller to second by senior Brian Celsi, but then threw low to first, resulting in an infield single.
Speedy Knapp then sent a bouncer to second, and Jordan hesitated, looking to throw out Celsi at second, before throwing to first, too late to get the junior center fielder. A sacrifice bunt by Preston GrandPre moved both runners over, and then Devin Pearson's team-leading 14th hit-by-pitch loadd the bases for Tenerowicz, who sent a fly ball deep to center to put Cal up.
"We haven't been as small as we needed to be, recently, and a little bit maybe giving ourselves too much credit, and getting away from that," Esquer said. "It puts a little doubt in the defense, and you want to be a little unpredictable. I think we've been pretty predictable, offensively. We just kind of sit up there and hit long fly balls that just miss. That's not a lot of pressure. Just getting back to where we had been a few years ago, when we were really unpredictable and kept some defenses on their heels a little bit, and we haven't done that, in a while."
With catcher Brett Cumberland having just two hits in his last 13 at-bats, Kranson coming into the game 2-for-14 in his last three and Brenden Farney 2-for-his-last-19, Cal needed some alternative forms of offense, and they got it.
The Bears also got some big defense, with Knapp hosing first baseman John Naff at the dish to end the top of the fifth.
Washington third baseman Chris Baker sent a double off the right center field wall in the top of the sixth, only for Joey Morgan to line the first pitch he saw from Dodson off the freshman righty's knee and right to Halamandaris at first for the final out of the frame.
"I didn't actually feel it," Dodson said. "I didn't feel it. It just hit straight bone. I should be fine."
With his 7.0-inning, seven-hit, one-walk, four-strikeout performance, Dodson is now 1-1 in his last five outings, with three earned runs in 20.0 innings of work and 12 strikeouts. Dodson said that his fastball command -- particularly running in to righties -- was key, and his slider was also sharp, with the occasional change up thrown in.
"We were watching him pretty closely," said Esquer, who was worried about Dodson coming back out off of that line shot. "We wanted to be sure that it didn't tighten up on him, but what an effort. He's grown up. He and [Joey] Matulovich both have grown up so much since the start of the year, when they could have never helped us in games like these, and now, they're pitching in the prime moments of the game, and we've added two pitchers to our pitching staff that we didn't have at the start of the year."
Pearson led off the bottom of the sixth by lining a shot off of the behind of DeMers, and into right field for a single, and then Tenerowicz pulled back a bunt and slashed a double into the right center field gap for an RBI double.
"I was thinking, 'Crap, I should have hit that a little bit lower,'" Tenerowicz said. "Maybe in the gap or something. I definitely do not have the juice to hit a ball that high to center and have it go out, even if I hit it perfectly."
After Tenerowicz took third on a groundout to first by Cumberland, Kranson was dealt an intentional walk. Halamandaris sent a roller to second, but the turn at second was slow, allowing Halamandaris to reach and bringing Tenerowicz home to make it 3-0, Bears.
The Huskies (24-15, 10-7) got on the board in the top of the seventh on an inside-out solo home run off the scoreboard by designated hitter Gage Matuszak, but then Cal came storming back in the bottom of the frame.
Celsi led off with a bouncer up the middle for a single, and was bunted to second by Knapp. A line-drive single to center by GrandPre moved Celsi to third, and then Pearson loaded the bases with a walk. A two-run single up the middle by Tenerowicz spelled the end for DeMers.
"Honestly, I messed up," Tenerowicz said. "I should have known they were going to go change up to try and force a double play, and I was just thinking fastball. Luckily, I got a hit up the middle."
While reliever Will Ballowe struck out Cumberland, the Bears executed a double steal, setting up a two-run single through the right side by Kranson.
Tenerowicz scored by sliding across the plate, but home plate umpire Barry Larson didn't see the Cal second baseman cross the plate. Tenerowicz had to dive back to beat Morgan. In recent weeks, Tenerowicz would have been called out.