Sue Tenerowicz

RECAP: Cal swept by UCLA for the first time in Los Angeles in David Esquer's tenure

LOS ANGELES -- Cal pitching and defense take Sunday off, as the Bears walk 10 and commit 7 errors in a 20-0 loss to UCLA.

LOS ANGELES -- Free bases were the theme of the day at Jackie Robinson Stadium, and they weren't being given away as promotional items.

California committed 7 errors and had one passed ball, while starter Tanner Dodson uncorked 2 wild pitches, issued 6 walks and hit one batter. In total, the Bears gave up 10 walks and 21 free bases in a 20-0 loss to UCLA.

"I told my team that I don't have a tattoo, but if I ever wanted to tattoo a score and a date on my body, it'd be 20-0 on March 26," said head coach David Esquer, after the worst loss of his career at Cal. "No doubt, as bad as I've had."

The Bruins continued their onslaught from Saturday night, scoring in each of the first 6 innings after scoring in each of their final 5 offensive innings in a 9-4 comeback win.

"This feels as bad as it can get, and yet, in our development, maybe you need one of those old-fashioned ass-kickings," Esquer said of his team, which features a single upperclassman in the starting lineup and weekend rotation, with all other regular contributors being freshmen or sophomores.

The low point, for Esquer, was when UCLA (10-11, 4-2 in Pac-12) didn't advance runners on a wild pitch, or send runners home on a sure-fire RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.

"The worst thing was when they stopped playing at the end," Esquer said. "I'd rather they win 25-0 than stop playing."

The Bears were outscored 38-9 on the weekend, with 22 walks issued by Cal pitchers.

"It's of great concern," Esquer said. "No disrespect, I think [UCLA is] better than their numbers, but the feeling is, the only way, with their offense, their best chance is if we help them."

Cal was held hitless through the first three innings, but despite getting leadoff singles in the fourth and fifth, from Jeffrey Mitchell and Matt Ruff, UCLA starter Jon Olson -- who came in with a 5.50 ERA -- was easily able to avoid trouble. The sophomore righty was able to earn his first win of the season, going a career-long 7.0 innings, with one walk and five strikeouts, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of 24 hitters.

The Bears were out-hit 17-3 on the day, and did not record a single base hit against relievers Ryan Garcia or Brian Gadsby in 2.0 perfect innings of relief.

Dodson was forced to swallow an ugly 4.1-inning, 99-pitch outing. Cal (9-12, 1-5) had used eight pitchers in the previous two nights, and with a Monday date with Long Beach State at Evans Diamond looming, the Bears couldn't afford to burn any more bullpen arms.

"We played them all," Esquer said. "He's going to have to pitch some, and get his pitch count up, and hopefully do some things to turn the tide. It was more pitch count. We weren't going to leave him out there to hurt himself. We were mindful of how many pitches per inning he was throwing."

The first man out of the pen for Cal -- Andrew Buckley -- served up a first-pitch three-run home run to Sean Bouchard in the bottom of the fifth to make it 12-0, after a potential inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Daniel Amaral deflected off of Buckley's foot the batter previous. 

The only bright spot in the game for the Bears was Mitchell, who went 1-for-2 (exiting for pinch hitter Austen Swift in the sixth) with an outfield assist -- throwing out Nick Kern at home in the bottom of the third -- and a stolen base, his seventh in seven attempts. First baseman Andrew Vaughn, who was 5-for-9 in the series, went 0-for-3.

Mitchell -- along with Jonah Davis -- exited in the sixth, as Cal began a series of wholesale changes following a six-run fifth that effectively turned out the lights on a comeback attempt. 

Leading off the disastrous fifth, Dodson allowed an 0-1 pop fly single to center by Kern, on a ball that was initially caught by a diving Davis, but then popped out of his mitt as he tried to show it to the umpire. Dodson then walked freshman Michael Toglia on four pitches. Chase Strumpf then turned on the second pitch he saw from Dodson inside the line at third, bringing home a run. The throw home from Max Flower bounced off the chest of third baseman Denis Karas, allowing Strumpf to take second. 

After Dodson fanned freshman third baseman Jack Stronach, he walked light-hitting sophomore catcher Daniel Rosica to load the bases. Senior left fielder Brett Stephens then served a line drive to the right side, just to Vaughn's right, with Rosica situated between the Cal freshman first baseman and the ball, effectively boxing him out. The frozen rope got through, bringing home a run.

Dodson was pulled, and on Buckley's fifth pitch, Amaral sent a shot off the Concord (Calif.) De La Salle product's foot, which turned a would-be double-play into a run-scoring force. One pitch later, Bouchard went yard.

UCLA added seven more runs in the eighth off of freshman lefty Jack Wolger. After getting ahead of four of the first six hitters he faced, Wolger got what looked like an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the eighth, but Anthony Walters, having moved to third base, took a grounder from pinch hitter Zander Clarke and fired wide of second and into right field. Amaral then sent the second pitch he saw from Wolger off the heel of Cameron Eden's glove and into left to load the bases.

After striking out Bouchard, Wolger got a pop up on the infield from late-inning defensive replacement Jake Pries, but late-inning defensive replacement Ripken Reyes dropped the pop-up, allowing another run to score. Wolger walked Kern, and then gave up a full-count line-drive single to left center by freshman pinch hitter Jeremy Ydens, bringing home another two runs.

"Do you chalk it up to, 'When it rains, it pours'? I don't think Ripken's dropped a pop-up in his life," Esquer said. "Our coaches have committed ourselves to staying composed in light of the development and the bumps in the road that we're going to go through, and it's not going to be easy. We'd like the results to show up more quickly."

Sophomore infielder Jake Hirabayashi then ended a seven-pitch at-bat with an RBI single to right. A walk to Stronach ended the day for Wolger. Flower came on for his second mound appearance of the year, and allowed two run-scoring singles before snaring a shot by Amaral up the middle, and throwing to first for the final out of the frame.

Six Bruins had multi-hit days, including Bouchard, who went 2-for-6 with 2 runs and 5 RBI. His home run was his fifth of the season, one fewer than the conference-leading Vaughn. Bouchard delivered a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first to cash in Stephens, who reached on a ball off of Karas's chest at third, giving UCLA its first lead, and led off the third with a double, riding home on a double by Kern two batters later.

Kern -- who did not play in 2016, and appeared in just 10 games in 2015 -- entered in the top of the third, after starting shortstop Nick Valaika checked his swing on a Dodson inside fastball, only to have it hit his wrist. Kern finished 2-for-4 with 2 runs and an RBI on the day.

Junior third baseman Karas was pulled in the top of the seventh for Kyle Sanchez, and Austen SwiftConner Bock and Lorenzo Hampton each saw late-inning action. Hampton stole his first career base in the seventh.

Next Up

Cal faces the Dirtbags (13-9) on Monday at 7:05 p.m., at Evans Diamond. Lefty Matt Ladrech will throw for the first time in a month, and will likely be able to throw 40 pitches, as he makes his return from injury. He has not pitched since Feb. 19, a 7.1-inning outing in an 8-1 win over Cal Poly.


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