SAN FRANCISCO -- California had two early opportunities to break things open against San Francisco at the renovated Benedetti Diamond on Tuesday, and despite having lefty starter Sam Granoff on the ropes in a 30-pitch first inning, could not deliver a knockout punch.
The Dons, on the other hand, landed two, scoring 5 runs in a 7-2 decision via a pair of longballs from juniors Ross Puskarich and Brady Bate.
The Bears stranded six runners in the first three innings, and in watching an early 1-0 lead disappear quickly, fell to 4-13 away from Evans Diamond, with seven of the next eight on the road. Cal stranded 12 men on the afternoon.
San Francisco (22-20) slugged both of its circuit shots off of freshman righty Rogelio Reyes, who couldn't effectively command his change up or curve enough to keep the Dons off of his fastball. Reyes walked 3 in just 2.2 innings of work, and left after surrendering a three-run home run to Puskarich in the third.
"Not enough off-speed, [he was] count-predictable said head coach David Esquer. "They're good enough to make him pay for that."
The Bears (19-19) got on the board first when national player of the week Andrew Vaughn cashed in a leadoff single by Tyrus Greene, but even though the Bears loaded the bases on a single off the right field screen by Denis Karas and a ball off of Tanner Dodson's upper left arm, couldn't add on.
Designated hitter Matt Ruff sent a bouncer back to the mound, where Granoff scooped the ball to home to cut off Vaughn, and then left fielder Max Flower grounded into a force at second to end the frame.
"Unusual," Esquer said. "Ruff has been swinging the bat really good for us, and he didn't get it done a couple times with a runner at third and less than two outs. Those are free runs, if he can just make contact."
With one out in the top of the third, Cal had another golden opportunity, with Karas at third and Ruff at the plate. With the middle of the infield back, conceding the run, Ruff bounced the second pitch he saw from Granoff to third, where senior Allen Smoot scooped it and came home to cut down Karas on the fielder's choice.
"With one out, we're going to play contact play there," Esquer said. "If it was Andrew Vaughn hitting next, you maybe wait a hitter. If you can get inside, and get in the third baseman's line of throwing, maybe he has to go to first. I didn't think we got inside the line enough, for where the ball was hit."
A two-run home run by right fielder Bate in the bottom of the second gave the lead to San Francisco, and then, in the bottom of the third, Reyes lost the plate, throwing eight balls on nine pitches and walking two with two outs, bringing up Puskarich. Puskarich took the third pitch he saw from Reyes over the in-wall scoreboard in left, becoming the USF RBI leader in the process, and giving the Dons a 5-1 lead.
Reyes has given up 10 earned runs now in his last 6.2 innings of work, over four outings.
"We just didn't pitch well enough, and the story of the year is that our midweek pitching, right now, is just not competitive enough," Esquer said. "We know what they bring, USF. They play in a good league, and they're always tough on us. Our midweek pitching can get backed into a corner, so when Rogelio Reyes is serving fastballs because he has to, it's not going to be good enough. They're hitting fastballs on homers in plus counts."
Reliever Andrew Buckley hit center fielder Tyler Villaroman in the shoulder to lead off the bottom of the sixth (Villaroman took a ball to the head over the weekend), then walked senior left fielder Matt Sinatro on four pitches. After a sacrifice bunt, third baseman Allen Smoot smoked a 2-2 roller through the left side for an RBI single, and then Buckley walked Dominic Miroglio on four pitches to load the bases.
Reliever Jack Cosca then served up a smash to center field off the bat of sophomore Riley Helland to make it 7-1 n for the Dons, before a 6-4-3 stopped the bleeding.
San Francisco starter Granoff went 6.0 innings, scattering 7 hits and allowing just one run, with one walk, one strikeout and one hit batter, needing 101 pitches, while Reyes needed 66 to get through his 2.2 innings. Granoff needed just 71 pitches in his final five innings of work.
Greene was the top offensive performer for the Bears, going 4-for-5, but he tried to turn his shot inside the first base line in the fourth -- good for an easy double -- into a triple, and was thrown out by a country mile at third, ending the frame. Greene ripped a double into right field in the top of the seventh, making a big turn and sliding in just under the tag on a throw that beat him.
When the Bears had the bases loaded with two outs and a run in, in the top of the eighth, though, Greene was retired on just one pitch against San Francisco closer Brendan Jenkins, flying out to right to end the frame.
Sophomore righty Aaron Shortridge tossed a perfect eighth in his first outing since a March 4, 1.1-inning stint against Gonzaga. He'd been dealing with arm tenderness. He struck out one and threw 11 pitches. He sat 82-83 with his change up, and hit 89 with his fastball.
"We've got to get him to where he can turn it loose, and throw it with some velocity, but he's going to have to come back and feel pretty good tomorrow," Esquer said. "If he doesn't feel good for two weeks, then it's not worth it. He's going to have to respond and get up off of that."