OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – After a month of progression, Cal picked the worst time to visit its past. The Bears stranded 13 runners in a frustrating 9-7 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University last night at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.
The loss lands the Bears in the loser’s bracket of the Southeast Regional, where they will face Minnesota today. The Golden Gophers lost to LSU in the region’s opening game, 10-9.
“We stranded a lot of runners, left men on third with less than two outs, and didn’t get the job done,” Cal head coach David Esquer said afterward. “We haven’t done that much in the past month, but it sure happened today.”
Try as they might, Cal could not deliver the knockout blow to VCU starter Davy Martin. Cal’s leadoff hitters reached base in seven of the nine innings, but were often left there with untimely strikeouts, popups, or double plays.
VCU opened the scoring in the first inning on catcher Cory Bauswell’s towering two-run homer off of Cal starter Trevor Hutchinson (6-7). Cal answered in the second when Brian Horwitz’s single plated John Baker, cutting the lead to 2-1.
With the Rams leading 4-1 in the sixth, the Bears’ offense answered back again. Carson White led off with a single to centerfield. After Clint Hoover struck out, Horwitz ripped a double down the leftfield line. Martin then walked pinch hitter Spencer Wyman, loading the bases for Jeff Dragicevich. The freshman shortstop singled up the middle, bringing home White and Horwitz and cutting the lead to one. Conley then tied the score with a single to center. Rob Meyer’s sacrifice fly plated Dragecivich, capping a four-run sixth and giving Cal a 5-4 lead.
VCU refused to give up, regaining the lead in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, the Rams rapped five consecutive singles against Hutchinson, capped by Bauswell’s RBI single to leftfield. When the dust settled, the Rams had scored three runs, re-captured a 7-5 lead, and effectively swung momentum in their favor.
“VCU did a good job hitting with runners on, and they were excellent in two-out situations,” said Esquer.
The Bears had one last rally left in them, but came up just short in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Wyman launched a tape-measure homerun off reliever Bo Acors, cutting the lead to 9-7. Acors then hit Dragicevich with a fastball, which was followed by a sharp single to leftfield by Conley. But the Bears would only come close enough to victory to see it slip away. Jackson, representing the potential winning run, looped a soft liner behind second base that was snared by Bryan Gillespie, sealing the victory for the Rams.
Hutchinson pitched seven innings for the Bears; they will have the majority of their deep pitching staff available for Saturday. David Cash worked the eighth inning for Cal.
Horwitz and Ben Conley both ended up with three hits and an RBI. Baker and White also had two hits apiece. Bauswell led VCU with two hits and three RBIs; shortstop Josh Arteaga also had five hits for the Rams.
The Bears have now lost their last three NCAA regional contests; their last victory was against Georgia Tech in the first game of the 1995 regional in Knoxville, Tenn. The Bears last advanced to the College World Series in 1992. Should the Bears defeat Minnesota today, they would then take on the loser of the VCU-LSU game at 5:30 PST.