Seven-Run Fourth Lifts Bears Over Broncos

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In the Evans Diamond dugout after the Cal baseball team's 9-6 victory over Santa Clara on Wednesday afternoon, pitcher Kevin Miller is pulling a change of shoes out of his bag and dumping a few loose coins out of one of them before pulling them on.

His face is so youthful that he'll probably be carded well into his 40s, and it's easy to forget that the chipper reliever was striking out batters just a few minutes ago.

Miller's coming off his seventh appearance of the year -- this time in relief of starter Yasser Clor -- and it was another successful outing: three-plus innings, one earned run and two strikeouts.

And in spite of his carefree attitude after the game, there's no doubt that Miller's performance against the Broncos was a little more important than usual.

"Right now it just seems like he's able to help us a couple times a week out of the bullpen," coach David Esquer said. "We tried to start him for a while, but then it became (where) one of our best weapons can only pitch one game a weekend."

In the short term, Miller kept Cal in the game and, in the long term, he helped the Bears by giving them more versatility going into the weekend series against Washington State.

"Usually when you come in (relief it) allows your team a chance to stay in the game, especially today," Miller said. "We got to save a little bit of pitching for the weekend. We threw a lot of guys against Stanford, so that'll be huge going into the weekend to have everyone refreshed."

The win over Santa Clara marks Cal's fifth midweek game victory in six tries, a place where the team struggled last season.

"I think every midweek game is really important," senior third baseman Michael Brady said. "Sometimes we come out here and play a lesser opponent and you play down to them, but I thought we did a good job of playing how we can play ... In the end of the season, what could make the difference is the midweek games."

The Bears put some distance between themselves and the Broncos early with a seven-run inning in the fourth. In that inning, Cal hitters recorded six hits, worked two walks and got nearly every player in the lineup on base as they went up by a score of 9-0.

The Bears did not score again, however, and nearly let Santa Clara creep back into the game.

In the sixth inning, the Broncos scored four runs -- none of them earned thanks to passed ball and an error by Brady -- and rallied to score one more in the top of the ninth before Miller retired the final three batters to earn the save and maintain the victory.

"It's really nice to go in (to the series against the Cougars) after a win," Miller said. "You always feel like you should win those midweek games so (when you lose) it kind of puts you in a down mood. So winning the midweek game is always huge going into the weekend."


Contact Katie Dowd at [email protected]

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