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May 28, 2011

Bears drop first game of twin bill

BERKELEY -- The California baseball team continued its flaccid performance against rival Stanford in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, quietly dropping the first leg of the twin bill 4-2.

The Bears' lefty starter Justin Jones surrendered 12 hits to the Cardinal, with five of those coming on infield singles and another four coming on groundballs through the infield. Stanford banged out four hits in the top of the first, scoring two runs against Jones during the 20-minute frame.

Jones allowed a leadoff single to Cardinal catcher Zach Jones, and after a sacrifice bunt from designated hitter Ben Clowe, left fielder Tyler Gaffney delivered the first of five infield hits for Stanford, delivering a slow chopper to first that died in the grass. With men at first and third, Stephen Piscotty lined a Justin Jones curve into left for an RBI single, putting the Cardinal on the board.

First baseman Brian Ragira then rolled a grounder towards third, but third baseman Mitch Delfino, instead of tagging the runner or the bag, threw high to second, preventing what would have been an inning-ending double play as second baseman Tony Renda was only able to make the force play.

After a walk to shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, right fielder Austin Wilson delivered a slow chopper to Delfino playing back at third on yet another Justin Jones curve for an infield single.

Offensive struggles started from the outset for the beleaguered Bears. After a leadoff walk to senior Austin Booker, Renda sent a dying flare to shallow right for a sure-fire single, but the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Wilson made an athletic grab to rob the Cal second baseman. With junior catcher Chadd Krist at the dish, Booker was picked off to end the inning.

The Bears did manage to stumble into a run in the bottom of the second, scoring one without getting a single hit against Cardinal starter Jordan Pries. Krist led off with a two-hopper to third, and reached first when the throw from Piscotty sailed, taking Ragira off the bag. Junior center fielder Chad Bunting sent the second pitch he saw out to short, where the roller got through Diekroeger's tangled legs, putting men at first and second for the powerful Devon Rodriguez.

The sophomore first baseman who tied the team lead with his fourth homer of the season on Friday afternoon squared up a sacrifice bunt up the third base line to put men on second and third with one out. Pries then hit Delfino in the left foot to load the bases for junior Danny Oh, who squirted a high chopper to second for the fielder's choice force out, bringing Krist home.

Stanford added runs in the top of the third and the top of the fourth, all on two outs. In the top of the third, Ragira chopped the first pitch he saw over the second base bag for a single, and was followed by a roller under Rodriguez's glove off the bat of Diekroeger.

Justin Jones had Wilson at 0-2, but threw three straight balls before the big right fielder fisted one to the right side. Renda plugged the hole, gloved the spinning ball on the outfield grass as it skittered towards the foul line. Renda made a heroic effort to turn and fire home, but his throw was high and late.

In the bottom half, Renda poked a two-out single up the middle on the third straight slider away he saw from Pries, but his aggressiveness eventually got the best of him. On Pries' 1-0 pitch to Krist, the junior backstop threaded a perfectly-placed hit-and-run groundball single through the right side, and as Renda barreled into third, Wilson uncorked the perfect throw on a line from shallow right to cut down the sophomore infielder and end the threat.

While the Bears couldn't capitalize on a golden opportunity, Stanford did. With Zach Jones once again aboard with a one-out single, Clowe gave one a ride to deep left, but Booker was able to leap up and snag the drive at the wall to rob the Cardinal DH of a double. With two down, Zach Jones got a huge jump on the first pitch to Gaffney and had second easily stolen, when Justin Jones' delivery skirted into the dirt inside, twirling towards the backstop. Zach Jones made the turn and went for third, but while Renda was nailed by a perfect throw, Krist delivered a low toss to Delfino, which the sophomore hot cornerman couldn't handle. The ball skipped into shallow left as yet another run scored, putting Stanford up, 4-1.

Cal once again stumbled and bumbled on the basepaths in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, sophomore designated hitter Vince Bruno hopped one off the lip and over Lonnie Kauppila at second for a single. Semien followed up with a hard liner to right for a single of his own, putting two on with two outs. With Renda - the Bears' best hitter - at the dish, a seemingly distracted Semien and Bruno tried to advance on a slider low and away which squirted past Zach Jones behind the dish. While Bruno got a decent jump, Semien looked lost, and was easily erased for the final out of the inning on a throw by Zach Jones to Diekroeger.

The final four innings saw Delfino play the goat several times. In the bottom of the sixth, once again with two on and two outs thanks to Bunting taking a pitch in the back and Rodriguez taking advantage of a Pries mistake up by banging a single to left, Delfino flew out softly to right.

In the bottom of the eighth, Renda and Krist reached with one out thanks to a line drive single to left center and an errant pitch which hit Krist in the left arm. After flailing at two straight sliders low and away, Bunting tapped Pries' third offering softly in front of the plate. Instead of letting Zach Jones call the play, Pries rushed in, fielded the ball and wheeled to fire to second, seeing his throw zip through Kauppila's legs. Renda came around to score, and instead of having men at second and third with two outs, Stanford was now facing a first-and-third with one out situation.

That spelled the end for Pries, as Cardinal skipper Mark Marquess went to the pen for lefty closer Chris Reed, who earned his eighth save of the season on Friday. Reed got the powerful Rodriguez to roll a grounder to first, where Ragira alertly fired home to erase Renda easily. Up stepped Delfino with his .455 slugging percentage. Reed spun three straight sliders low and inside, and with the count 3-0, caught the inside black with a darting fastball.

Reed then went back outside and caught that corner with another running fastball. With Bunting going, Delfino lined the next offering foul to the right side, then popped the next one foul and out of play to the right. Delfino reached for the next pitch off the plate away, and weakly popped out to shallow right.

Appropriately enough, the Bears ended the game with a 6-4-3 double play, grounded into by Booker after a leadoff single from pinch hitter Paul Toboni.

Extra Bases
Cal got leadoff man on twice, a first-inning walk and Krist on an error in the second.

Pries established the fastball early in the game and then went backwards, getting strikes early with his breaking ball and off speed pitches, using his hard slider to great effect.

Justin Jones was off his game for the first half of the contest, showing no command of his breaking ball and missing up with his fastball and other off speed pitches. Pries, on the other hand, deftly worked inside-out and even pitched backwards for a few innings, utterly confounding Cal hitters who had to change their approach seemingly on an at-bat-by-at-bat basis.

Pries moved to 5-5 on the year with a 7.1-inning, six-hit, two-run (neither earned), one-walk, three-strikeout performance. Jones threw eight innings, allowing 12 hits and four earned runs while walking one and striking out four.

Official attendance was a season-high 1,358.


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