BERKELEY -- California starter Tanner Dodson started hot, with three strikeouts in his first two innings, but the righty head coach David Esquer called the Bears' X-factor didn't last much longer than that. The sophomore righty threw 50 pitches in the third and fourth frames, giving up five earned runs on six hits, two walks and a hit batter, taking a 6-4 loss in the front end of Cal's doubleheader against Cal Poly on Saturday.
The Mustangs -- who won 32 games last season, and started eight freshmen in the field as early as the second series of the season -- looked baffled by Dodson's quick delivery and late life in the first two frames, but once the lineup turned over, the Carmichael (Calif.) Jesuit product started to scuffle. Dodson walked senior nine hitter Kevin Morgan to lead off the third, then allowed three straight singles, including an RBI shot up the third base line by left fielder Josh George and a run-scoring bouncer up the middle by Alex McKenna.
Dodson walked the bases loaded with a free pass to Arizona transfer Elijah Skipps, and then allowed a sacrifice fly to left before catching freshman right fielder Scott Ogrin looking at strike three.
After getting senior third baseman Michael Sanderson to ground out to start the fourth, Dodson allowed another hit up the middle, this one to Morgan, then hit shortstop Bradlee Beesley, and served up a double into the right field corner by George. An RBI single through the left side by McKenna spelled the end of Dodson's day on the hill.
"I think sometimes, he gets away from his off-speed a little bit," said head coach David Esquer. "He's tough to hit, but really, what beat him were two at-bats where they didn't do their job. They went for a bunt after a leadoff on, he walked a guy -- which is not great -- bunt, foul, bunt, foul, 0-2 hit, next guy, bunt, foul, bunt, foul, 0-2 hit, and that created the whole inning."
Cal played without its only returning starter in the field, as junior shortstop Preston GrandPre broke his hand in practice this week while diving for a ball. He is out indefinitely, but in his place, the Bears started freshman Anthony Walters, who went 2-for-4, played flawlessly in the field and earned his first collegiate hit in his first at-bat -- a 1-1 single up the middle to lead off the bottom of the third.
Cal got on the board in the bottom of the fourth, when a leadoff single by Jonah Davis was cashed in on a bouncer to short by Jeffrey Mitchell, whose speed forced a wild throw up the line at first, bringing Davis home to cut the lead to 5-1.
Sophomore left fielder Lorenzo Hampton also got his first collegiate start, and rocketed a first-pitch double off of Cal Poly starter Erich Uelmen with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to drive home catcher Tyrus Greene and cut the Mustangs' lead to 6-2. Walters then got his first collegiate RBI, drilling a chopper off the mound and up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the sixth to bring home Hampton.
Dodson -- remaining in the game as the DH -- then narrowed he gap in the bottom of the seventh, fisting a one-out single into center off of reliever Spencer Howard to cash in third baseman Denis Karas. Karas reached on a rocket single to left, and then advanced to third on a double to right by Jonah Davis. That rally was cut short when a fly ball to right by Mitchell turned into a double play, with Ogrin cutting the speedy Davis down at the plate as he tried to tag up and score.
Freshman first baseman Andrew Vaughn followed in Dodson's footsteps, playing both ways. He went 2-for-5 at the plate, before becoming Cal's fourth pitcher of the day, tossing 1.2 innings, with two strikeouts, giving up one hit and one walk.
Vaughn loaded the bases wth two outs in the top of the ninth, and was moved back to first, as the Bears brought in fellow freshman Rogelio Reyes. The lanky righty needed just one pitch to get a fly out to left by Morgan to strand three.
Cal tallied 17 hits, and stranded 10 runners, while Cal Poly rattled out 13 hits, and left 12 men on.