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VCU bests Cal again, boots Bears out of NCAA regional

By Ralph Gaston Daily Planet Correspondent
Monday May 28, 2001

Cal’s run through the NCAA Regionals came to an end Saturday night as the Bears were defeated by VCU, 11-2. The loss eliminated the Bears from the Southeast Regional at Alex Box Stadium.  

The start of Saturday’s final game was delayed almost two hours due to rain and lightning around Baton Rouge. The aftermath left a muggy, still air on the field of play.  

After enjoying solid pitching and potent hitting in the first two games of the series, the Bears were abandoned by both in Saturday night’s game. Starter Brian Montalbo (4-1) surrendered five runs on four hits in just two and two-thirds of an inning. More importantly, the freshman walked four batters and threw two wild pitches in his time on the mound.  

The game began with much promise for the Bears when Rob Meyer crushed a Marc Fisher fastball over the leftfield bleachers with two out in the first. Meyer’s blast staked the Bears to a 1-0 lead, and it seemed that the Bears would continue their momentum from their victory over Minnesota earlier that morning.  

Montalbo, however, could not find the strike zone, and the Rams took advantage. VCU tied the score in the second and broke the game open in the third.  

Montalbo, after loading the bases on two walks and a single, surrendered a bases-loaded single to Danny Lopaze, plating two runs and giving VCU the 3-1 lead. Kevin Elrod then tripled in two more off of reliever Andrew Sproul, pushing the lead to 5-1 and further dimming Cal’s hopes. Even freshman closer Matt Brown, brought in to stop the VCU attack, could not find the strike zone: Brown surrendered three more runs in the fourth, a rally keyed by his walking the bases loaded. Cal pitchers walked nine batters on the evening; seven of those baserunners came around to score. 

Meanwhile, the Bears’ normally strong offense was non-existent against Fisher and the Rams. Fisher set a new career-high with 14 strikeouts, while pitching a complete game for the Rams. The Bears finish their season 34-25 on the season; VCU goes on to face LSU in the championship game.  

The season finale was in direct contrast to Cal’s first game of the day. Meyer smashed two home runs and drove in four as the Bears defeated Minnesota, 9-3, in the NCAA Southeast Regional in Baton Rouge. Hoover also homered and drove in four. 

The Bears got their offense rolling early against Minnesota (39-21). Ben Conley led off with a walk against Gopher starter Ben Birk (2-3). After Conor Jackson struck out, Meyer lifted a Birk fastball over the right field fence for a 2-0 Bears lead.  

“I sliced it, and it just got up in the wind,” said Meyer.  

The Bears were not finished in the first. With two outs, Carson White singled up the middle, ending the day for Birk and setting the stage for Hoover. Hoover then smashed a C.J. Woodrow fastball over the center field fence for a two-run homerun, giving Cal the 4-0 lead.  

Bears’ lefty Jason Dennis (5-3) allowed a two-run homerun to Gopher first baseman Josh Holthaus in the bottom of the first, then settled in to blank the Gophers for the next four innings. David Cash finished the final three and two-thirds innings for his fourth save. 

The Bears pounded Gopher pitching for 16 hits on the afternoon; their second double-digit hit total of the regionals. 

For the tournament, Brian Horwitz collected seven hits in the regional. Rob Meyer made a strong bid for the all-region team; he finished with 6 hits in 12 at-bats, pounding three homeruns and driving in seven. John Baker had five hits in the regional; he ends the season on a 12-game hit streak.