Battle-Tested Bears Cross the Bridge to Square Off With San Francisco

Late Inning Heroes Hope to Avenge Loss Suffered Against Dons at Evans Diamond Two Weeks Ago

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On Sunday, the Cal men's baseball team fought back against Washington State for its third walk-off win of the season. Today at 2:30 p.m., the Bears will get a chance to make up for one they just missed.

When the No. 13 Bears hosted San Francisco on March 16, they faced a 6-2 deficit in the ninth inning. Shortstop Marcus Semien's three-run homer tied it up after Cal's third run, but the Dons escaped with a 7-6 victory after two extra innings.

Cal has gone on a tear since then, and it hopes to continue that streak against USF at Benedetti Diamond in San Francisco.

In its last six games - all at Evans Diamond - the team has outscored its opponents 31-4. The loss to the Dons was the only one that besmirched an 11-game stretch.

San Francisco, on the other hand, has only won two of their last seven since defeating Cal (16-5, 3-0 in the Pac-10).

That said, it did have to face a rough slate that included a three-game series against No. 18 Arizona, and Cal coach David Esquer doesn't see much of a break coming for his team.

"They play us great all the time," he said. "They're as tough for us to beat as any Pac-10 team, honestly."

This time, the Bears won't have to deploy a rotation of freshmen and sophomores.

"We got Miller ready to go, so they're going to face one of our best pitchers," Esquer said.

Senior Kevin Miller, fully healthy after battling injuries in the past, has excelled so far this season. The San Jose, Calif., native has recorded a 0.61 ERA in 29 1/3 innings of work this season, lowest among Cal pitchers that have thrown at least four innings. He's part of a starting rotation that recently helped Cal go 47 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.

Opposite him on the mound will be freshman Alex Balog. The right-hander, who finished off the Bears with two innings of relief last time around, will be making his first career start.

It's a turn of the tables from the midweek matchup almost two weeks prior.

Back then, it was Cal freshman Louie Lechich making his first start, while USF (11-13) junior Jordan Remer held the Bears to one hit and no runs in just over five innings.

A seventh consecutive victory for the visiting team would bolster the playoff resume for a program that struggled with midweek games two seasons ago. That tendency hasn't shown up yet this spring, but the game is no less important.

"You've got to take every single win no matter when they come," Esquer said. "At the end of the year, every single one is going to be important.

"We're gonna hit some bumps in the road, but when there are wins to be had, you gotta take them."


Jack Wang covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]

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