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Bears fall to powerful ASU to open Pac-10 play

By Ralph Gaston Daily Planet Correspondent
Saturday March 17, 2001

Last year, Arizona State was a team experts predicted would be hampered by inexperience and youth. They only won the Pac-10 championship and advanced to a NCAA regional final. Cal’s baseball team has such lofty goals, but they are now the inexperienced team in the Pac-10, and their inexperience showed this afternoon in a frustrating 7-4 loss to the Sun Devils at Evans Diamond.  

“We pitch and play enough defense that we should be able to play with the better teams,” Cal head coach Dave Esquer said. “We need to produce more offensively if we’re going to be the kind of team that’s not just close, but will beat those teams.” 

The game’s key moment came in the top of the fifth inning. Cal starter Trevor Hutchinson (2-4) escaped harm when Mel Stocker, who doubled to start the inning, was cut down at the plate trying to score on a single by Jeff Phelps. Hutchinson then walked catcher Casey Myers but retired Jeremy West on a grounder to second. With two outs, shortstop Brooks Conrad slapped a 2-2 fastball into the left-centerfield gap, scoring Phelps and Myers and giving the Sun Devils their first lead of the ballgame.  

Arizona State (18-4-1, 1-0 Pac-10) never trailed after Conrad’s hit. Hutchinson struggled with his control throughout the game, walking four batters and throwing 106 pitches in only 4 2/3 innings.  

“I don’t think Trevor had his best stuff today,” Esquer said.  

Cal (13-10, 0-1) opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Senior first baseman Clint Hoover’s two-run triple drove in Ben Conley and Brian Horowitz, giving the Bears an early 2-0 lead. However, pitcher Jon Switzer induced a fly-out to centerfielder Chris Duffy, who threw to the plate to nail the tagging Hoover and end the Cal threat. The Bears would add another run in the top of the third as Conley scored on Switzer’s wild pitch. 

As soon as the Bears grabbed a lead, however, Arizona came back, as the Devils were in the details. Hutchinson committed a fielding error on a comeback grounder by Phelps, which led to a bases-loaded, one out battle with Myers. The All-American catcher promptly laced a two-out, two-run single to center to cut the lead to 3-2.  

“We have to be better at these little details,” explained Esquer. “Casey Myers is one of the best hitters in the Pac-10, and because of that (error), he’s up with bases loaded instead of being up with runners on second and third. That changes the complexion of the whole inning.” 

Cal would tie the game in the fourth inning on an error by second baseman Steve Garrabrants, but would not lead again after Conley’s double in the fifth. The Devils added two insurance runs in the seventh inning with RBI singles from Rod Allen and Duffy. Conrad and Myers led Arizona State with three hits and 2 RBI’s apiece. 

Freshman leftfielder Brian Horowitz singled in his first at-bat, extending his hitting streak to18 games. Horowitz has reached safely in 22 of the Bears’ 23 games this season. 

Arizona State will play two more games at Evans Diamond; both tomorrow and Sunday’s games will begin at 1 p.m.