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March 17, 2012

Cal falls in two straight against Oregon State



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BERKELEY -- The Pac-12 opener may have been delayed a day, but No. 19 Oregon State were just as ready as ever to bust out of the gate, taking both ends of a doubleheader from No. 21 California on Saturday at Evans Diamond, 9-2 and 4-1.

Beavers ace Ben Wexler held the Bears to just six hits in game one, while Cal's Justin Jones had his second straight poor outing, lasting just five innings while giving up five runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out three. Jones was unable to spot his fastball for strikes and continues to feel the layoff he experienced this summer and fall, while recuperating from a stretched nerve in his left biceps.

"He hasn't been good for a while, unfortunately," said head coach David Esquer. "He's been shaky, and that's a concern. On Friday, when you go three or four deep in your bullpen, that really thins you out in ways that can be detrimental later on, so we've got to fix that."

Over the two games, top Bears hitters Tony Renda and Chadd Krist went a combined 2-for-16 in the twin bill, with Renda's first hit not coming until the top of the ninth in the second game.

"It's simple: we pride ourselves on that they don't have to do it to be a good team, but quite honestly, if Renda, Krist, Jones and players like those names don't come through for us, we're really reaching," Esquer said.

Krist also contributed two major gaffes both in the field and on the base paths. On the day, Cal (11-5, 0-2 in Pac-12) committed seven fielding errors, and in the second game, three costly base running mistakes cut down some of the Bears' best chances to score against starter Dan Child, who picked up his second win of the season by going eight-plus innings, allowing five this and one walk while striking out six.

In the top of the first inning, right-handed starter Matt Flemer hit the first batter, and then mis-played a bunt up the first base line and off the lip of the dirt in front of home plate, putting two men on for freshman slugger Michael Conforto. With the runners going on a 2-2 pitch, Conforto swung and missed, as Krist rushed his throw to third baseman Mitch Delfino -- who committed two errors in the first inning of the first game -- and sent it sailing into left field. A sacrifice fly by Dylan Davis made it 2-0 Oregon State.

After third baseman Ryan Dunn made it 3-0 in the top of the fourth, Krist responded with two down in the bottom of the frame with a worm-burner up the middle. First baseman Andrew Knapp then sent the third pitch he saw back up the middle and off of Child's leg. With Dunn charging hard, Krist took a big turn around second, and Dunn alertly threw back to second where Krist was tagged out by John Tommasini to end the threat.

The next time the Bears got rolling - in the bottom of the fifth - center fielder Chad Bunting led off with a bouncer to short, which was thrown away by Tyler Smith, allowing Bunting to reach second. Designated hitter Devon Rodriguez bounced out to first, moving Bunting to third for Delfino, who laced a line drive single to right for an RBI single. After being sacrificed over to second by Derek Campbell, Delfino tried to take third on a ball in the dirt to right fielder Danny Oh, but was easily gunned down by catcher Jake Rodriguez.

"We really had three more errors there. There's no reason [for Krist] to round the base there, no reason to press third base with two outs. There's just no reason," Esquer said. "It's just bad baseball. We may have been off the field for three or four days because of the weather, but it looked like we were off the field for two weeks."

The seven Cal errors over the two games didn't help much, either, especially considering that Oregon State (13-5, 2-0) committed only three fielding miscues. The Bears are now the not-so-proud owners of a conference-worst 25 errors on the season, despite entering the year with what was expected to be an improved defensive infield.

"That's our Achilles heel: defense. And, they played very good defense," Esquer said. "They beat us in all phases. Their starting pitching was better than our starting pitching. Their defense was better than our defense. They didn't have to hit much, but they got some hits when they needed them. We didn't do much [offensively]. They scored on a bad throw into left field, and all they've got to do is to make contact to get the second run. They didn't have to hit. They didn't have to get a hit. "The more we don't make teams have to hit to offense, it's going to be tough for us. There's no excuse for playing as poor defense as we're playing, but we're not playing good defense."

Flemer was the hard-luck loser in the second game after allowing three runs on three hits and no walks in 7.0 innings, striking out six. Only one of the runs he surrendered was earned.

On Deck
The Bears will get their last crack at the Beavers on Sunday at noon, with left-handed sophomore Kyle Porter on the bump in his third start this season. Porter -- a 2011 Freshman All-American -- is scheduled to go for 75 pitches as he continues to stretch out after losing a few weeks in January due to shoulder tendonitis.


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