[Twist Note: Moved this to the top so we can again bask in the glowing warmth of Cal baseball's warming glow. Game 2 is tonight at 7 PM! Don't forget there are still tickets available.]
We didn't realize it at the time, but Cal won today's super-regional opener in the second inning when Chad Bunting turned on a pitch low in the zone, powering it well over the right field wall with Devon Rodriguez and Mitch Delfino on base. Those three runs were plenty the way Justin Jones and Logan Scott pitched to Dallas Baptist's usually potent offense.
Jones allowed a first inning single to Patriots star Jason Krizan, and he walked Tyler Robbins in the 6th. Robbins was quickly picked off by Chadd Krist and every single other batter he faced was retired in a masterful performance. Curveballs, sliders, changes, fastballs - all his pitches were working and he kept Dallas Baptist guessing for six innings. Unfortunately, the only thing that went wrong for the Bears was that Jones was only able to go for those six innings.
While warming up in the 7th, Jones threw what looked to be his final warm up pitch, grabbed his left arm and walked off the mound while signalling to the bench. Cal trainers came to the mound and after a brief discussion removed Jones from the game. He was later seen with ice against his biceps and said after the game that it was just a cramp. If so that's a big relief for Cal fans that witnessed an otherwise flawless performance from the Bears.
Logan Scott relieved Jones, and though he wasn't quite as dominant Dallas Baptist never really threatened to score against him. And when Marcus Semien lifted a three run home run over the left field wall to put Cal up 7-0 in the top of the 8th it allowed Coach Esquer to stay with Scott in the blowout, preserving Cal's bullpen arms for work tomorrow night and in a potential third game on Sunday.
Interestingly, Cal pitchers and Dallas Baptist pitchers ended up with almost identical numbers of strikeouts and walks. But the similarities ended there. Jones and Scott seemed to have Patriots hitters constantly off balance and induced weak contact throughout the game. Infield popups and grounders were frequent and Cal's defense (particularly Marcus Semien) backed up Jones and Scott with consistently excellent play. Meanwhile, Cal's hitters rarely seemed fooled by Brandon Williamson, and even the outs seemed like hard hit balls. As nice as 7 runs look up on the scoreboard, it could have been more.
Cal will try to carry over their excellent-in-all-phases performance to game 2, which will start at 7:00 pm PST, again on ESPNU and ESPN3. Strangely, it will be a game 2 battle of aces. Erik Johnson, Cal's usual Friday/game 1 starter, pitched in Monday's win over Baylor and Coach Esquer wanted him to get an additional day of rest. Jared Stafford is DBU's best starter, but I'm guessing the Patriots went with Williamson in game 1 because he would be more effective on short rest if they wanted to throw one of their two best starters again in Monday's game. Whatever the rational, runs may be tougher to come by for the Bears tomorrow.
On the other hand, this lineup is red hot. Consider: Cal pounded out 7 runs and 11 hits . . . and Tony Renda and Chadd Krist were the only two starters that didn't get a hit! For long stretches this year, Cal relied on Renda and Krist to produce, and if they didn't the Bears weren't scoring. That's not the case right now. Up and down the order Cal is putting up great at bats and finishing with hard hit balls. Jared Stafford is good, but I like our chances. A trip to Omaha is there for the taking.