Waves Swamp Baseball in SoCal





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Even in Malibu, the Cal baseball team could not escape the rain.

Playing through two rain delays, the Bears suffered a tough 5-3 loss Sunday at Pepperdine after showing signs of finally breaking out of their hitting slump Saturday with a 15-4 victory. That game was the lone bright spot over the weekend, which began with a 8-2 loss to the Waves.

Cal came home still missing the consistent clutch hitting necessary for it to be successful.

"It is a good news, bad news type of situation," Bears coach David Esquer said after Sunday's loss. "The good news is that we are getting the opportunities, now we just have to take advantage of them."

To understand Cal's lack of production and clutch hitting, one need look no further than the seventh inning of Sunday's game.

Facing a 5-3 deficit, the bases were loaded with no outs for Bears sluggers Xavier Nady and Mike Tonis. But the threat was eliminated quickly when Pepperdine second baseman Damon Katz took the mound. Nady struck out and watched Tonis ground into the inning-ending double play.

That, combined with a subpar effort from Cal ace Jon Shirley (0-2), who gave up eight hits and five runs in five innings, cost the Bears the rubber game.

It was a difficult pill to swallow, considering it looked like the team had finally put the pieces together Saturday, when Cal opened up the day with a 15-run outburst.

"Hitting was great (Saturday)," said Tonis, who started the hit parade in the fourth inning with an RBI single. "We've had a lot of games that we didn't have key hits, but we broke through and we started hitting everything. It was a chain reaction."

No Bears player came away hitless Saturday. Cal racked up 20 hits, with 14 of them coming from the first five batters in the lineup.

That includes Nady. He showed why he is ranked second all-time on the Bears' career home run list by hitting a grand slam in the sixth inning that put Cal up, 10-2, and essentially sealed the victory.

But the highlight of the day was senior pitcher Brad Steele's first career complete game. He scattered 10 hits while striking out four and giving up four earned runs.

"He obviously pitched well for us," Esquer said. "He pitched like this for the last three games for us, and he did that again today."

Saturday's resounding victory brought a collective sigh of relief from the team, which had to be concerned with its continued lack of hitting after Friday's 8-2 loss.

Cal could only muster two runs Friday against Waves starter Steve Schenewerk, who pitched a complete game, striking out four and walking none.

Meanwhile, sophomore starter Trevor Hutchinson took a step backwards from his previous effort when he pitched a career-high seven innings against Long Beach State, giving up only three runs.

Hutchinson fell apart in the third inning against Pepperdine, when he surrendered five runs and hit three batters. His control was clearly off - he finished with six runs in five innings and an alarming four hit batters.

Tonis' 3-for-4 performance with a solo shot was the highlight for the Bears Friday.

The series against the Waves marked a homecoming of sorts for Esquer, who spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach for Pepperdine.

Esquer denied that victories over the Waves would have been any sweeter given his connection to Pepperdine.

"I am about winning so I don't care where I do it," Esquer said. "It is more about coming here and winning and doing it the right way. The opponent doesn't necessarily make it any sweeter for me."

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