Extra, extra: Bears fall in 17 to ASU

Photo: Righty Erik Johnson pitched nine innings of two-run ball on Thursday - what would have been a complete game if not for the eight additional frames the Bears and the Sun Devils played afterward.
Carli Baker/Staff
Righty Erik Johnson pitched nine innings of two-run ball on Thursday - what would have been a complete game if not for the eight additional frames the Bears and the Sun Devils played afterward.

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In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cal baseball team turned their hats backwards for a traditional rally cap. Two innings later, the caps stood on the top of the players' heads like a shark fin. The 14th inning came around, and the Bears unbuttoned all but the top button of their jerseys to wear capes. After all, it was going to take something heroic to end this game.

But by the bottom of the 17th inning, there would be no rally caps or capes, just a cold bench unwilling to accept a loss that they had so many chances to avoid.

In a game that featured 17 full innings, eight pitchers, two seventh-inning stretches and 499 pitches, the Cal baseball team could not execute when it mattered, losing 6-4 at home on Thursday evening to Arizona State (26-9, 9-4 in the Pac-10). It was the second-longest game in Cal history and the second drawn-out extra inning game of the season. The Bears (24-10, 9-4) defeated Rice 7-6 in 15 innings on March 12.

"The Rice game was the longest one I'd played in," junior Marcus Semien said. "So this one is definitely the longest."

A battle between two of the top teams in the conference, the Bears answered Sun Devil runs in the 10th and 13th innings, but failed to bring home the winning run either time.

Thursday's extra-inning marathon featured strong pitching and defense from both sides, and neither team could find a way to end the game until ASU's Deven Marrero singled home two runs under the glove of Tony Renda over five hours after the first pitch.

Despite strong efforts from both starters, Thursday's game was anchored by the bullpens. Cal received effective long-relief appearances from both Matt Flemer and Louie Lechich. Lechich's control sputtered at times, and he would eventually be saddled with the loss despite not surrendering a hit until his fourth inning of work. The Sun Devils' Alex Blackford and Mark Lambson combined for seven innings of relief.

"We have guys on our staff that can hold the line for us," Esquer said. "This is going to benefit us down the line."

Reserve Derek Campbell, who entered the game for third baseman Mitch Delfino in the 10th, announced his presence in the extra frames with a strong performance at the plate. The freshman infielder led off the 11th by smashing a double off of the top of the wall and followed by singling in the tying run in the 13th.

Back when there was still daylight, Bears' starter Erik Johnson struggled with his location early in the game, bouncing a series of fastballs, unleashing one wild pitch and throwing 61 pitches in his first three innings. The junior would overcome command issues to limit the opposition to two runs over nine innings.

"I could not be more proud of Erik Johnson than I am right now," Esquer said. "He didn't have the stuff to make it through seven, and then his stuff got stronger in the seventh, eighth and ninth."

Conversely, Sun Devil starter Brady Rogers showcased his control in the early frames, but would be burned by the first of three walks. Entering the game with a gaudy 30-1 strikeout to walk ratio, Rogers issued only his second free pass of the season to catcher Chadd Krist with a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. First baseman Devon Rodriguez followed Krist with a two-run blast to right to tie the game. Rodriguez's longball was the first that Rogers surrendered this season.


Contact Gabriel at [email protected]

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