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Golden Bears baseball drop season opener to Cal. State Bakersfield in the Angels College Classic

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The Bears have alternated winning and losing the season opener for the past five years.

Jake Roth- KLC fotos

The Golden Bears scored in three consecutive innings but couldn’t match the Roadrunners offensive output, falling short 4-3.

Cal gained momentum early thanks to some extra-base hits and savvy pitching but couldn’t keep it rolling to finish. Center Fielder Max Flower had the best day of the starting nine, going 2-3 with a clutch RBI. 2018 USA Golden Spikes award winner Andrew Vaughn scared his opposing pitchers into walking him twice.

Pitching duties were divvied up between the Bears young bullpen. Highlights and lowlights headlined the groups day. Between three freshman pitchers appearing in their first game, things could have been a lot worse. They each showed a steely resolve by standing tall and getting tough outs.

Trendy Pitching Tactics

Cal has followed in the footsteps of an MLB trend, where the traditional starter is replaced by an “opener.” CGB writer Ruey Yen did a great job expanding on the significance of this approach and what it means for the Bears in 2019 in the Season Preview.

Lefty pitcher Arman Sabouri opened the game for Cal. The third-year pitcher did not let the first game jitters affect his pitches as he struck out the first two batters he faced. Sabouri threw two clean innings, striking out three of the six batters he faced, to help the Bears jump out to a quick 1-0 lead entering the third.

Freshman Sam Stoutenborough recorded a few ‘firsts’ against CSU Bakersfield. He took over for Sabouri to open the third inning. His experience was less successful than his predecessor, but much of that can be chalked up to the fact it was his collegiate baseball debut.

Stoutenborough pegged lead-off batter Eric Charles with a pitch to start the fourth, giving up a free base. The Roadrunners followed that up with a single from third baseman Tyler Jorgensen, putting runners on the corners. Consecutive players batted in their teammates to tie the game 2-2.

Stoutenborough was shook, to say the least. He just gave up back-to-back runs and had two players on base with zero outs on the board. He threw an errant ball allowing a runner on third to score for a final time before the inning ended. He did bounce back from the three score inning, throwing a strikeout before the teams switched sides.

The fatal dagger that would prove to be the final run of the day, one resulting in a loss for Cal, was scored later in the top of the fifth inning to make it 4-3.

Stoutenborough was pulled after four up and down innings. The Freshman pitcher showed a lot of promise and will likely be a consistent part of the rotation in 2019.

Other inexperienced freshman pitchers Joe Ammirato and Sean Sullivan finished the day on the mound for the Bears. Both players gained valuable game experience in the waning minutes of the final three innings.

Quick start, quick end

The Golden Bears jumped out to a hot lead in the second inning. Shortstop Cameron Eden got into scoring position by his own effort, smacking a double off Roadrunners pitcher Darius Vines and then stealing third base. Left fielder Connor Mack drove him in with a single to left field giving the Bears a 1-0 lead early.

The scoring continued into the next inning with a sacrifice fly-out RBI from CF Flower. He has already started building on a strong 2018 campaign where he finished third on the team in total RBIs (30), including 19 in Pac-12 play.

At the bottom of the fourth, the Bears were staring at a 3-2 deficit, but it didn’t last long. DH Grant Holman hit a solo home run to left field to tie the game. That was the six-foot-six first baseman’s first career home run, in his first career college game.

The faucet was shut off after the fourth inning. The team couldn’t recapture momentum in the last five innings and only recorded two hits before the final out of the game. Cal was struck out nine times in total, a number that has to go down if they want to start the season 1-1, not 0-2.

Who’s Next:

The Golden Bears will face-off against Pepperdine in game two of the Angels College Classic at 5 p.m. Feb. 16 in Tempe, Arizona. The Pepperdine Waves defeated CSU Bakersfield 11-0 earlier in the day and will be another tough test for this young Cal squad.