Esquer pulls starters after six in 9-5 loss to Stanford

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At the start of the seventh inning, David Esquer pulled his starters - all nine of them. The Cal baseball team, floundering in a 8-0 hole at Stanford's Sunken Diamond, was well on its way to a third straight shutout loss, and the Bears' head coach needed to send a message.

"Something needed to happen," regular first baseman Vince Bruno said. "There needed to be a change."

The reserves couldn't get Cal the win, but they did ignite a small spark that gave the No. 20 Bears a more respectable final score in the 9-5 loss.

Nearly everything went wrong almost immediately for the Bears in their fourth consecutive loss, their longest streak of the season.

The No. 21 Cardinal's starting pitcher Mark Appel faced only three batters in the first inning, his only action of the day. Stanford led off the bottom of the frame with two consecutive singles, then completed double steals on an ensuing strikeout by Cal's Kevin Miller.

Third baseman Scott Piscotty singled on a 1-2 count to grab a 2-0 lead. The Cardinal never looked back, hitting .351 in the game and going 5-for-12 in scoring position.

Much like it did against Arizona in their 6-0 loss Saturday, the Bears couldn't find their groove at the plate, rarely getting on base and failing to capitalize when they did.

"We're just not starting things," Bruno said. "Sometimes you get beat, and unfortunately we got beat today. I don't think we came out flatter than normal. We came out ready to win."

They sure didn't look it. Against Stanford's midweek pitching committee, 11 Cal players were retired on no more than three pitches in the first four innings.

It didn't help that Miller had what was easily his worst outing of the season, giving up 11 hits and seven earned runs through 5 1/3 innings. The senior entered Sunken Diamond with a team-leading 1.38 ERA. He walked off the mound allowing 2.34.

For a fleeting moment, it seemed as if the mass substitutions had also sprinkled some pixie dust onto the Bears. Sophomore Dean McArdle, the fourth in the Cardinal's six-man assembly line on the mound, hit newly inserted first baseman David Buscovich on full count to send him to first.

Substitute center fielder Lou Lechich moved Buscovich to second two at-bats later and gave Cal multiple runners on for the first time all day.

Then freshman Michael Theofanopoulos brought them home. The designated hitter, who Esquer started at eighth in the order despite entering the day with four collegiate at-bats, crushed the first pitch he saw over the right field fence.

"Our bench guys did a great job igniting us," Bruno said.

But the deficit was too great, and a wild pitch in the eighth allowed Stanford's star freshman Austin Wilson to score his team's ninth and final run.


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

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