Three games in 24 hours, bad weather and an early start for the rubber match. None of the three factors were a problem for the new look Golden Bears as they took the opening series of the season from Cal Poly, clinching it 8-1 on Sunday to start the season 2-1.
After losing 4-6 in the opening game of yesterday’s doubleheader, the Bears came back to even up the series with a 4-3 win in the nightcap.
Junior left-hander Matt Ladrech earned his first win of the season on Sunday, going 7 1/3 innings on the mound, allowing just one run on eight hits while striking out one and walking a batter.
“It was basic Ladrech,” Cal head coach David Esquer said. “They were going to make contact. You don’t play defense behind Matt Ladrech he doesn’t have a chance.”
After a tough second inning where Ladrech allowed the opening run of the game to Kyle Marinconz on a sacrifice grounder to short, Ladrech started to get into his rhythm, pitching the remaining 4 1/3 shutout innings until his exit with one out in the eighth.
Ladrech faced other challenges on the day, battling the wind and rain throughout most of his day on the mound. The rain started to pick up in the middle innings, however, Ladrech kept his rhythm while facing the elements.
“You try to block it out as best you can,” said Ladrech. “You just got to take extra care. For the most part, you control what you can and the rest will control itself.”
Ladrech and the Bears found themselves under pressure in the opening two frames as Poly’s Josh George reached on an error by Bears third baseman Denis Karas. Alex McKenna singled to right-center on the following at-bat, however, Cal turned a double-play at second to end the first inning.
In the second, Ladrech worked his way out with another pair of runners on, forcing Scott Ogrin to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
“Errors are going to happen,” Ladrech said of Karas’ error at third in the first inning, “you just try to minimize it volume-wise. But they do a great job as you’ve seen as the game continued on. They made some plays to make up for it.
“They did an unbelievable job. It was awesome.”
Poly starter Jarred Zill started sharp, retiring his first six batters faced before Anthony Walters lined a single to left for Cal’s first hit of the game. Catcher Korey Lee followed that up with a single of his own, putting a pair of Bears on the base in the third inning. Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. lined a Zill pitch to right to score both runners in the third, giving Cal a 2-1 lead. Lee was initially beat by the throw home, however, he slid in and collided with Poly catcher Nick Meyer, jarring the ball loose and behind home plate. The play stood and Meyer got the wind knocked out of him. He would stay in the game.
“It’s so close,” Esquer explained, “the rule is you’ve got to get your butt on the ground before contact. It was so simultaneous that it was within the rules.”
Mitchell continued his solid day at the plate, notching his first home run of the season and his Cal career, sending a 1-0 pitch to right off of Zill for a two-run homer to push the Cal lead to 5-1 in the fifth inning. He finished the day going 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBI.
The Bears start the season 2-1 for the first time since 2013 when they split a four-game series against the Texas Longhorns at Berkeley.
“It feels great. Especially with a group of young guys,” Ladrech said. “(Cal Poly)’s a great team, there’s no secret there. They pitch, they hit. For us to compete, let alone take two games, I couldn’t be any more proud of those guys.”