Bears down Ducks in fourth walk-off victory of the season

Theofanopoulos doubles in his ninth at-bat for winning run

Photo: The Bears mob freshman Michael Theofanopoulos after his walk-off double.
Katie Dowd/Staff
The Bears mob freshman Michael Theofanopoulos after his walk-off double.

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Freshman Michael Theofanopoulos swung at the first pitch he saw Friday, cracking a walk-off double into right field. And for the first time in what felt like an eternity, the Cal baseball team finally cracked a few smiles.

The reserve outfielder's ninth career at-bat broke the Bears' four-game losing streak, sending his teammates flooding onto Evans Diamond to celebrate the 2-1 victory over visiting Oregon.

It was No. 20 Cal's (25-13, 10-16 in the Pac-10) fourth walk-off win of the year, and third from a freshman's base hit.

Theofanopoulos had showed some fire earlier in the week, smashing out a late three-run homer in the team's 9-5 loss to Stanford on Monday after coach David Esquer pulled nearly all his starters to start the seventh. While the runs did little in that contest, the move paid off four days later.

"We had to go down to our bench and we learned something on Monday night," coach David Esquer said. "We can rely on anyone on our bench to help us win and we had to today."

The heroics capped what was a stifling pitcher's duel through nearly the entire game, with Oregon lefty Tyler Anderson pitted against Cal's Erik Johnson. The two entered the day with the fourth- and fifth-best ERAs in the Pac-10.

Johnson was stellar, allowing a run in the first, but blanking the Ducks (21-19, 4-9) through the rest of his eight innings out and striking out 11 - including six looking.

Anderson performed nearly just as well. The home squad had dropped two straight shutout losses to end its series against Arizona State last weekend, and followed that up with seven scoreless innings against the Cardinal.

It looked like more of the same for the first few innings against Oregon.

Save a solo shot by third baseman Mitch Delfino to tie the game in the second, the Bears couldn't muster much against the Ducks' Friday starter, managing six hits but striking out eight times through 7 2/3 innings.

They looked like they were about to break out of their slump in the sixth when Austin Booker doubled deep into left field on the second pitch of the inning. Right fielder Vince Bruno moved him to third with a sacrifice bunt, but shortstop Marcus Semien and second baseman Tony Renda both struck out on big swings and misses on the next two at-bats.

The Bears couldn't plate anyone with the bases juiced in the next inning either.

So Johnson, who talked his way into an eighth inning, returned to the mound and finished off his day with over 120 pitches. Freshman Kyle Porter relieved him in the ninth.

"The last two weeks, he has just shown a toughness that we haven't seen out of him before," Esquer said of Johnson. "He hasn't been at his very best, but no one puts him away."

First baseman Devon Rodriguez drew a full-count walk to open the ninth. A bunt had pinch runner Danny Oh out at second on a fielder's choice, but Dwight Tanaka followed that with a single through the left side. Suddenly, Cal had runners on first and second with just one out.

Theofanopoulos came up to the plate.

"I felt a lot of good nerves," he said.

One swing later, his team felt even better.


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

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