Updated 8:28 p.m. with quotes from David Esquer
After falling just short in an 11-10 loss to No. 1 Oregon State on Saturday, California head coach David Esquer was encouraging to his young team during his post-game chat in shallow left field. There was something to build on, he told them, in that game -- scoring more runs against the Beavers than any team had this season, backing their vaunted pitching staff into a corner and taking their offensive game on the road.
Whatever gains the underclassman-heavy Bears made, though, evaporated against two-time Pac-12 pitcher of the week Jake Thompson on Sunday.
Cal did rattle off 9 hits against Thompson, and 10 overall -- the third time in three days the Bears had gotten at least 7 hits against Oregon State, and the second day in a row with double-digit knocks -- but only 2 of those hits came back-to-back. The Beavers had 3 multi-hit innings, including a 5-hit, 5-run sixth that propelled them to a 10-2 win.
"Same story, different day," said Esquer. "I actually thought we swung the bats OK today, to be honest with you. I know we didn't have much to show for it, but I thought we pressured them quite a bit, barreled up a lot of balls, and didn't have much to show for it, and really, just couldn't hold them."
Two stats tell the story of Sunday's game. The first: Advancement opportunities. Cal went 6-for-17 in moving runners over, but Oregon State went 13-for-21. Going deeper, the Beavers went 3-for-4 with runners on third and less than two outs. Cal didn't even get a runner to third with less than two outs.
For good measure, Oregon State went 7-for-19 with runners on base, while Cal went 3-for-16.
The Beavers (38-4, 21-3 in Pac-12) saw every starter but one register at least one base hit, with pinch hitter Tyler Malone -- a native of Roseville, Calif. -- going 2-for-2 with a team-high 2 RBIs.
The Beavers' sweep avenges a sweep they suffered at the hands of the Bears (21-24, 12-12) last season, a sweep which, in part, kept them out of the NCAA Tournament, despite 35 wins and a 16-14 record in conference play.
Cal won't have time to mourn the sweep, facing a six-game stretch in Berkeley against some of the nation's best. The Bears will host No. 21 Stanford this weekend, and preseason-No. 1 and current No. 6 TCU will come to town the next weekend.
Blow by Blow
Cal junior lefty Matt Ladrech got off to an auspicious start, hitting red-hot Nick Madrigal to lead off the game. Madrigal then moved to second on a groundout, and rode home on a first-pitch Adley Rutschman single through the right side in the bottom of the first.
A sacrifice fly by third baseman Michael Gretler cashed in a Jack Anderson one-out double in the bottom of the fourth to make it 2-0, before the Beavers exploded in the fifth.
"Midway through the game, it's a game," Esquer said. "It's too much to say we didn't pitch well. I don't think we supported our pitching well enough."
Madrigal -- who had seven hits in the previous two games -- got his only hit of the afternoon, lining the first pitch from Ladrech up the middle to lead things off. Madrigal then took second on a low throw by catcher Korey Lee on Ladrech's first pitch to Saturday's hero, Steven Kwan.
Kwan -- whose first career home run was a go-ahead grand slam on Saturday -- went the complete opposite direction, sending a bunt up the first base line. First baseman Andrew Vaughn flipped the ball to second baseman Preston GrandPre, who was late to cover first, and first base umpire Scott Letendre ruled that GrandPre's foot came off the bag, putting men at the corners for the heart of the Beavers lineup.
Powerful K.J. Harrison ripped the first pitch he saw over a leaping Denis Karas at third for an RBI double. Ladrech left a fastball thigh-high to Rutschman, who sent a sacrifice fly to center, making it 4-0, Oregon State. A groundout by Anderson moved Harrison to third, from where he'd easily score on an opposite-field triple to right center by shortstop Cadyn Grenier.
Reliever Jack Cosca walked the only two men he faced, and was promptly pulled for lefty Zayne Patino. Up stepped Malone, who had just a .190 batting average in his first collegiate season. Malone sent a 2-2 line shot over short for a pair of runs, putting the Beavers up, 7-0.
"We had a couple chances to get out of the inning, and didn't," Esquer said. "The triple by Grenier was the back-breaker in that inning. We felt like Ladrech could get through one more hitter, and didn't. That was one of those innings hwere we were right on the verge of getting out of it, and didn't, and they compounded it with a couple more hits and a couple more runs. We really could have minimized it to one or two, and it ended up being five."
Vaughn led off the top of the sixth with a double, but the next two hitters grounded out. A walk to designated hitter Jonah Davis put men at the corners for shortstop Cameron Eden (2-for-4), who tomahawked an inside fastball from Thompson inside the third base line, plating one. The inning was choked off when Lee was caught looking on a full-count fastball on the outside corner for one of Thompson's 6 strikeouts. That was the only time Lee was retired on the day, as he led Cal with a 3-for-4 day at the plate.
"We thought, all weekend long, they did a nice job of pressuring the bottom part of the zone, and to be honest, pressuring the umpire to call the bottom part of the zone," Esquer said. "When you repeat over and over and over again, boy, I think sometimes he figures out and he starts to give you some pitches. It was a good pitch. Korey had just fouled off a 3-2 pitch that was a little bit up and over the middle of the plate, and he went outer-edge, black, and just kind of dotted a fastball that he couldn't pull the trigger on. He was having a great at-bat, and just froze him away."
Thompson allowed another run in the top of the second, when another leadoff double by Max Flower (one of 5 doubles on the day the Bears hit off of Thompson) was cashed in by Jeffrey Mitchell. The sophomore right fielder crushed a hanging slider from Thompson down the left field line to plate Flower in the only inning where Cal was able to string hits together.
Thompson threw 6.1 innings, scattering 9 hits and walking one, but after throwing a ball to Vaughn with one out and a man on second, he was lifted for freshman Mitchell Verburg, with his 1.12 ERA. Verburg got Vaughn to fly out to right, just shy of the warming track, on one of four balls hit on Sunday that would likely have gone out on Saturday. Karas then flied out to the warning track in left to end the frame.
Oregon State added 3 more runs in the eighth against closer Erik Martinez, who allowed his first home run of the season on Saturday -- the grand slam by Kwan.
Malone, again, stung one to right, with Gretler on the move from first after a dying quail leadoff single. The throw from Mitchell looked to beat Gretler to third, but it skipped by Karas, putting two men in scoring position with no outs.
"If he's going to make an aggressive move and go out to the ball, then that's a 100-out-of-100 play," Esquer said. "It's on turf, it's going to bounce pretty consistently. If you make up to make a short hop, you need to catch and tag."
After a rare strikeout by Madrigal -- he was caught looking for just his 10th K of his season -- Martinez overthrew a slider that sailed up and away to Kwan, bringing another run home. Martinez then walked Kwan, before being pulled for Ian Lutz. The junior righty got one easy out -- a pop up to short right -- but then the circus organ started playing.
Lutz got ahead of Rutschman 0-2, but then threw a pitch in the dirt and through Lee, allowing Kwan to move to second, and pinch runner Preston Jones to third. Lutz got what looked like an easy bouncer to short, but Eden threw wide, pulling Vaughn off the bag and allowing Jones to score. Vaughn looked to third, and threw to Karas, getting Kwan in a run down. An ill-advised pump fake got Kwan turning and running home, where Karas caught a toss from Vaughn and tried to tag Kwan. The ball, though, popped out of his mitt as he tagged the sophomore outfielder, and he, too, scored.
"I thought throughout that whole rundown, we were giving up the ball a little late," Esquer said. "I always like to see the ball given up early, and eventually, the guy will just give up. If you wait until the last second for a catch and a tag, you leave yourself open for a mistake. Twice, that inning, I felt on the relay throw from first to third, Denis, 100 out of 100 times, he's able to catch that throw and put a tag on him. It was a one-hop throw, and Mitchell made a good enough throw, and certainly one good enough to be handled. I know our infielders and third basemen, they expect the first baseman to handle balls that bounce that close to him ... He's got to catch the ball on the run down. Maybe the throw was a little bit late, but the bottom line is, catch the ball. Those are two catch tags that Denis usually makes and should make."
Oregon State came into the weekend averaging just over 5 runs per game. They scored 8 or more runs in each game, and scored 29 overall against a beleaguered Bears pitching staff.
Esquer said that the game, and the series as a whole, is one he'll point to as an example of how his young team needs to play, if they want to reach the postseason.
"Absolutely, absolutely, when you're talking about pitching and defense, and the small things, a little bit at certain times, the maturity showed," Esquer said. "You can only rest on that so long, though, because it gets time to grow up and grow into yourself. I think they'll walk away and step back and look at this, and there are some things, competitively, we did well. I thought we stood in the batter's box and we swung the bats OK at times. I just think we need to do the smaller things well."