Cal freshman catcher Korey Lee scores go-ahead run for Cal in wild third, Bears clinch series win over Cal Poly

Cal freshman catcher Korey Lee keys a rally, as Jeffrey Mitchell goes 3-for-4 with four RBIs in a series-clinching win on Sunday.

BERKELEY -- The sixth member of California's 2016 signing class to make his collegiate debut this weekend, catcher Korey Lee got clean-up duty on Sunday. Crouching in the rain, relieving sophomore Tyrus Greene, who caught all 17 innings of a Saturday doubleheader, Lee helped key a 8-1 series-clinching win over Cal Poly on Sunday.

Lee tallied his first college hit in his first collegiate start by rocketing a 2-2 fastball up from Cal Poly starter Jerred Zill off of the junior righty's knee, and then came around to score the go-ahead run by knocking the ball out of Mustangs catcher Nick Meyer's hands with a hard slide. Meyers was shaken up on the play, and had to take several minutes to compose himself.

"I'll take a few, so I'll give a few, and it'll be fun" Lee said of the hard play at the plate. "I was actually visualizing that, at second, and when I was rounding third, I saw Eskie waving me, and I'm like, 'Alright, I'm all in.' I saw the catcher brace up, and I had my open lane. It was big." The play was close enough that the umpiring crew huddled up to determine whether or not Lee slid early enough, in accordance with anti-collision rules.

"The rule is, you've got to get your butt on the ground before contact," said head coach David Esquer. "It was close. I would have done the same. I would have asked for a conference and an interpretation."

Lee also hosed a would-be base stealer to end the top of the fifth, and drove in another run in the bottom of the sixth, when he reached on a fielder's choice, slow turn on a grounder second.

"He's done fine in practice, and they both are very capable catchers," said Esquer. "Asking Ty Greene to catch three games in 24 hours is a tall order. Korey Lee's been getting better and better, and Ty did a great job, probably the best two games I've seen caught in a few years, last night."

That fifth and sixth innings were key for the Bears, psychologically, seeing as the rain got heavier during the fifth -- when sopping the game would have given Cal a 2-1 win.

Rather than leave well enough alone, Cal scored three in the fifth. A double into the right field corner by Matt Ruff was cashed in by a single from Ripken Reyes, who drove in pinch runner Cameron Eden, and then sophomore outfielder Jeffrey Mitchell -- who went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and was the one who bounced a two-run single through the right side to score Lee in the third -- popped a two-run home, powering his first college circuit shot through the rain and to the opposite field.

"He had not come out strong in January," Esquer said. "I started him in the nine hole, and he just kept on getting better and better.""I was just trying to keep an up-the-middle approach," Michell said. "I've been pulling off the ball a little bit, so I've been trying to go up the middle, and I caught the balls off the end a little bit, and was able to put them through."

Mitchell's home run was a wall-scraper, and he didn't think it would get over, so by the time the ball did clear the fence, the speedy sophomore was halfway between second and third.

"I honestly did not think I got it," said Mitchell, of his first career home run. "When I put it up in the air, I thought it was just going to be a fly out, but I saw the right fielder going back and back, and by the time it went over, I was already around the bases, so I just kept going. No, I didn't think I got it, off the bat."

In the sixth, Jonah DavisTanner Dodson and Anthony Walters delivered consecutive singles, with Walters driving in Davis, followed by Lee's RBI groundout.

"I've been around a lot of teams that, you play a doubleheader, you come back and play at 10 in the morning, whether they're old and experienced, or young, that's a tough win," Esquer said. "I told them, before the game started, that will was going to be as big a part as skill. Are you going to be tired, is it going to be too cold and rainy, or are you going to expect the game to end after five [innings]? I thought our guys did a good job. It was 2-1, going into the bottom of the fifth, and I wasn't so sure they were going to pull the tarp, knowing that they had expected a little bit of a break after some rain, and it really didn't matter whether we hit in the bottom of the fifth or not. It was just whether we were going to extend the game. I think they were pretty close to pulling the tarp, just to see if we needed to break, but it didn't, and we scored a run in the bottom of the fifth, which gave us a little breathing room."

Bears junior lefty Matt Ladrech ground through a rain-soaked day, throwing 92 pitches through 7.1 innings. Ladrech worked around seven Mustangs hits and one walk, giving up just one run -- an RBI groundout by Kyle Marinconz in the top of the second to cash in a leadoff double by Meyer -- to earn his first win of the season.

"It was solid, basic Ladrech," Esquer said. "They're going to make contact. I thought, early on, they were making solid contact, and we happened to be in front of a couple of them. You don't play defense behind Matt Ladrech, he doesn't have a chance."

Ladrech and his fellow junior, third baseman Denis Karas, turned in a quartet of defensive gems, with Karas saving doubles up the line in the third and fourth, and Ladrech spearing a shot by Josh George for the second out in the top of the fifth, and picking a sharp one-hopper up the middle by shortstop Brett Binning to end the top of the fourth. got into trouble in the top of the eighth, allowing a 2-2, one-out double to George, before being relieved by newcomer Zayne Patino, the left-handed junior college transfer out of San Jose. McKenna proceeded to fan center fielder Alex McKenna (hitting .400) and first baseman Elijah Skipps -- the third and fourth hitters for Cal Poly, respectively -- to end the inning.

Cal rattled out 12 hits on the day, with Walters continuing his hot start, going 2-for-3 and upping his average to .556. 

"He just looks comfortable," Esquer said. "He looks like the at-bat is not too big for him, right now, whether that's at shortstop or left field. He'll help us, both."

The Bears loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth, and extended the lead to 8-1 with a ringing single to center by Eden that brought home Cole Lemmel, running in place of Dodson, who had poked a leg double to left with one out. Dodson went 2-for-4, after going 1-for-6 on Saturday.

"I thought a hit-and-run might get him going, let him do what he does best, which is to make low contact without thinking about hitting into a double play," Esquer said. "Hopefully, that gets him going a little bit."

Patino worked a 1-2-3 ninth to finish things off. Top Stories