Bears' bats fall flat in 7-4 home defeat to Pacific on Tuesday

Photo: Midweek starter Kevin Miller entered Tuesday's game with the second-best ERA in the country at 0.46. His mark dropped to 0.63 after Pacific rang up a 4-0 lead against him and the Bears in four innings.
Jonamir Ian Ventura/Staff
Midweek starter Kevin Miller entered Tuesday's game with the second-best ERA in the country at 0.46. His mark dropped to 0.63 after Pacific rang up a 4-0 lead against him and the Bears in four innings.

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Brent McMinn started on the mound for the Pacific baseball team Tuesday afternoon, less than two innings' worth of action worked into his glove this season. He stood in the middle of Evans Diamond, staring down No. 13 Cal's leadoff hitter Vince Bruno.

Three innings later, McMinn sat down, his ERA still spotless. No matter that the sophomore's resume was just as thin as it had been when the national anthem was blaring from the speakers; his team was well on its way to a 7-4 win that wasn't as close as the score, staffed by a six-man pitching committee of relative no-names.

Cal (19-7, 5-1 in the Pac-10) had entered the game victorious in nine of its last 10, but without that record on paper, no one could have guessed. The players swung at bad pitches, missed out on routine plays. They left 12 runners on base and went 4-for-17 from the plate in scoring position.

"It's as bad as we've played all year," coach David Esquer said.

The Bears' bats looked dead right from the get-go, with each of the first three batters falling behind 0-2 in the pitch count. Shortstop Marcus Semien got on base with a single, but second baseman Tony Renda lined into a double play to end the first inning.

Starting pitcher Kevin Miller kept Cal in the game through the next few innings, working his pitches in the usual high-70s and mid-80s. Entering the game with the second-lowest ERA in the country at 0.46, he gave up a run in the first inning but faced only four batters in both the second and third, striking out three and allowing two hits.

But then the senior stopped hitting his spots.

First, Miller walked Pacific (9-16) right fielder Allen Riley on four pitches to start the top of the fourth. Renda fielded the next grounder, but tossed it to Semien at second instead of going for the easy out; Semien bobbled the ball, and the Tigers were suddenly in scoring position.

They didn't let it go to waste.

A bunt moved runners to second and third, and a single into left field made it 2-0. A sac fly added another score. Second baseman Tyger Pederson, who went 5-for-5 on Tuesday, capped the run with a single RBI to grab a 4-0 lead for the Tigers.

After striking out a career-high 15 against San Francisco a week ago, Miller (3-2, 0.63 ERA) mustered four Ks in four innings of work. It wasn't a terrible performance, but not enough given the rest of the team's showing.

"We didn't do him any favors ... We've all got a hand in this," Esquer said. "If we came out thinking Kevin Miller was gonna strike out 15 guys and win the game on his own, we were sorely mistaken. That's putting a lot of pressure on him. He's a piece of the puzzle."

Things only got more out of hand in the sixth. An error put Pacific in scoring position again with runners on second and third, and Pederson singled for his second RBI of the day. A sac fly not long afterwards stretched the Tigers lead to 6-0.

Cal showed some life in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings with two runs in each.

Still, it was too little, too late.

Pacific retired three straight batters in the ninth inning to end the game.

With Pac-10 play picking up again Friday at No. 22 Arizona, the Bears have a bit of time to shake the bad vibes.

"I think we just need to come out tomorrow, work our asses off," Bruno said. "Stay an hour. Why not? Stay an extra hour."

Tags: CAL BASEBALL, DAVID ESQUER, KEVIN MILLER


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



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