BERKELEY -- With a pitching staff depleted by graduation, injury and a grueling 11-game road trip, the California baseball team was forced to throw the kitchen sink -- along with the drain, the garbage disposal, the broom and even the silverware -- and all were hit hard by rival Stanford, as the No. 6 Cardinal blasted the Bears for a 19-6 win at Evans Diamond for the second-worst home loss in head coach David Esquer's tenure.
"You have to forget it and move on, at this point," Esquer said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance, really, and they played well. It's almost like that first game at Texas. You hope that, because it was such a non-game so early, that the team got comfortable playing against the opponent, the longer the game went on."
Cal scored six runs on 10 hits, which, last season, with a veteran like Kevin Miller on the mound, would have been good enough to win. On Monday, the Bears came up far short.
Stanford (20-7) had been in an offensive funk ever since returning from a finals break, scoring just 3.9 runs per game, but on Monday, the Cardinal took advantage of a beleaguered pitching staff and racked up 23 base hits against six Cal pitchers.
"We're short-handed with two games in the week, and we tried to split it up, not relying on one guy," Esquer said. "With [Kyle] Porter not being in the weekend rotation, that takes Theo (Michael Theofanopoulos) out of the midweek equation, so, hey, we're just grinding. We've got to find a way to get ourselves back. You hope that you find a way to keep it close enough to make it a game and have your better guys late, but it just never got there. It just never got there."
The Cardinal got off to a hot start against a Bears squad which has now dropped three straight, tagging true freshman starter Keaton Siomkin for four runs on six hits in the top of the first. After Siomkin -- so rudely greeted in his second career start -- was pulled, sophomore Trevor Hildenberger was torched on a three-run moon shot off the bat of Stephen Piscotty off the wall of the field house beyond the left center field wall.
"I expected more," Esquer said of Siomkin. "We were only going to get a couple with him, really. I was only going to ask guys to give us one good inning, and it just never materialized. He wasn't in a position where he was going to go and give us six. He was going to give us two, at most. We've got two games to cover, and we figured if he got two today, he'd give us one tomorrow, and we could keep piggybacking and find a way to find 18 innings out of our staff."
Piscotty wasn't quite done, though, and in the top of the third, came up with no outs and the bases loaded against senior righty Stephen Pistoresi. After two big hacks came up empty, Piscotty shortened up and fired a line-drive single back up the middle to plate Jake Stewart and Tyler Gaffney, on board with a leadoff single and a walk.
Pistoresi was then able to induce three straight groundouts to second baseman Tony Renda, with two scoring runs.
The Bears (17-13) struck for three runs in the bottom of the third off of reliever Sahil Bloom, when, after two straight singles from Renda and catcher Chadd Krist, sophomore Andrew Knapp drilled an RBI double down the right field line to get Cal on the board. Senior outfielder Chad Bunting then sent a 1-1 chopper to Piscotty, who ranged back up the third base line and saw the ball trickle out of his glove, bringing Krist around to score. Junior outfielder Darrell Matthews then sent a high chopper back to Bloom, who hesitated a moment before firing to second for the out, allowing Knapp to score to make it 11-3.
Cal scored another run in the bottom of the fourth, when a leadoff walk to third baseman Derek Campbell was cashed in on a line-drive sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Renda.
After two straight singles to lead off the top of the fifth, Piscotty came up big again with a sacrifice fly to center for his sixth RBI, followed by a line drive from first baseman Brian Ragira off of Pistoresi's backside and into center for an RBI single. Ragira would strike again in the top of the seventh with a one-out solo home run to make it 14-4.
"We didn't get a chance to work the game plan [against Piscotty]," Esquer said. "The game got going, and we're in survival mode, throwing what guys throw best, not what it takes to get him out."
Hot-hitting Stanford catcher Eric Smith -- a converted infielder -- then struck with a double down the left field line, and advanced to third on a single to center by shortstop Kenny Diekroeger.
After reliever Ryan Wertenberger got ahead of designated hitter Alex Baldino on a nifty change over the outside corner, Baldino popped the next offering straight up to right. Mitch Delfino -- who started the game at first after committing two throwing errors from third over the weekend - snagged the pop, but Diekroeger tagged up at third and broke for home. Delfino fired to shortstop Chris Paul to catch Diekroeger in a rundown, but after Paul threw to Renda running back to first base, Diekroeger and the reigning conference player of the year collided and the ball dropped, allowing a run to score.
The current defensive alignment -- with Delfino at first, Chris Paul at short, Campbell at third and Knapp in right -- has proven to be a bit more steady, but errors and mental mistakes have still been an issue, with so many playing out of position. With three errors on Monday, Cal has now committed a conference-worst 59 errors on the season.
"It's going to have to be this way for a little bit," said Esquer. "I envision this being something we have to go with, a little bit, to see if we can somehow spur some better defense. Actually, Knapp's looked good in the outfield. We're going to have to go with it for a little bit, and again, we're just going to have to find ourselves. We have to have some toughness to come out of this. We've been here before."
With sophomore righty Seth Spivack on the hill in his first action of the season in the top of the eighth, Piscotty added to his banner day, slicing a drive into right center field for an RBI double, taking third on the throw. Ragira then cashed him in with an RBI single, banging a curve up the middle to make it 17-4, Cardinal. After a walk to Smith, Diekroeger then sent a high chopper over Campbell -- playing at an unfamiliar position at third base and breaking in, instead of back -- for a two-run double.
After the Bears loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth with one out, Renda came up with an RBI groundout. Of the four times Cal loaded the bases against Stanford, the Bears scored just two runs, with Campbell bringing home the second in the bottom of the ninth with a sacrifice fly.
"I don't know what to attribute it to," Esquer said. "Hopefully it's just like the Friday night Texas game. Really, we had a couple of opportunities. We had the bases loaded, we scored three and then we had another big opportunities that, hey, if it needed to be one of those slugfest games, they weren't firing their best bullets, either. They didn't have a whole lot in the pen left, either. It could have turned into one of those games, but it just never did. It never materialized."
The Bears will hit the road for a one-off against resurgent Santa Clara (17-12) on Tuesday, again with an all-hands-on-deck philosophy on the mound. Emotional leaders like Renda, Krist and right-handed senior Matt Flemer -- who were some of the key pieces in last season's College World Series run -- will play big if Cal is to come back strong in a Pac-12 weekend series against Washington.
"As I mentioned to them, the season is all in front of us," Esquer said. "The RPI that we need to get to where we want to be, to get to be a playoff team, is all in front of us. We've got to beat teams like Stanford. We've got three more cracks at them, and we've got to get them a couple times to be able to take advantage of your league being so strong. That's what it's about. The league's so strong that you just find some wins and get some wins, and you'll get your RPI high enough to be a playoff team."
True freshman lefty Chris Muse-Fisher and ousted closer Logan Scott could well see time against the Broncos.
"[Joey] Donofrio will probably be available if the game needs to be closed tomorrow," Esquer said. "[Michael] Lowden, not pitching him today, all those guys were in the mix to pitch today, if it was a game."