Beavers Capture Weekend Series

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If one considers last week's two wins against then-No. 19 USC a step forward, this weekend had to be a step backward.

One week after the Cal baseball team won its series against the Trojans to strengthen its playoff hopes, the Bears (21-22, 9-9 in the Pac-10) dropped two out of three to unranked Oregon State (23-19, 5-7) at Evans Diamond.

The worst loss came in the third game of the series, which Cal lost in extra innings, 8-5, after blowing an early four-run advantage.

The Bears had rebounded from a 12-4 loss Thursday with a huge offensive day Friday to win, 15-9.

Losing the rubber match Saturday brought Cal's Pac-10 record back to .500, a place it cannot be if it wants to make the postseason for the first time since 1995.

"(It was a) tough loss," Bears coach David Esquer said. "We really have our work cut out for us now."

It was also a hard way to end a day that had started so well.

Slugger third baseman Xavier Nady got Cal on the board right away with a two-run shot in the first inning off Beavers starter James Atwood.

The Bears went on to score two additional runs in the second inning, taking advantage of a throwing error on a double steal that allowed a run to score and a successful suicide squeeze laid down by right fielder Brad Smith to put Cal up, 4-0.

On the mound, right-handed ace Jon Shirley got the job done until the sixth inning, when the Beavers tied it up with three runs. OSU first baseman Joe Gerber had an RBI sacrifice fly in the third inning.

"Shirley was in command for a while," Beavers coach Pat Casey said. "But I think he got a little bit tired."

With Shirley's departure, the bullpen was unable to step up Saturday and stop OSU's bats. Beavers shortstop Will Hudson knocked an RBI single up the middle off Bears reliever David Cash in the eighth to put OSU up by one.

Cal catcher Mike Tonis bailed Cash out in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single of his own to tie the game at five apiece.

But the bullpen failed again in the 10th inning. This time it was side-armer Jon Cuccias who couldn't keep the Beavers off the board.

Cuccias failed to record a single out in the 10th inning, giving up five consecutive singles that put the Beavers up, 8-5. This time, there was no one to bail out Cuccias. The Bears never threatened in the bottom of the inning.

Esquer refused to express much disappointment in his bullpen, instead praising OSU's bats, which accounted for 19 hits on the day.

"They're a good hitting team," Esquer said. "They came in with good numbers. They're aggressive, but they're smart-aggressive."

Friday's game was the opposite. Cal overcame an early four-run deficit with an offensive outburst starting in the bottom of the third inning, when the Bears crossed home plate seven times.

Five of those runs came with two outs, starting with designated hitter David Sark's bases-loaded double that tied the game at four apiece. Shortstop Jason Williams and Smith also had two-out RBI singles.

Cal ensured the victory by scoring two runs in each of the remaining frames after the fourth inning.

The win made Saturday's third and deciding game of the series vital to both teams' postseason hopes. The Beavers' coach was proud of his team for pulling it out.

"It was very important to win this series here because Cal is a very good club," Casey said. "We needed to win a series on the road against a good club and our guys did it."

The loss for the Bears left Cal in an undesirable position. The team must come up huge in its two remaining series against Pac-10 powers Stanford and UCLA, both of which are on the road.

"Now we have to finish strong to get where we want to be," Esquer said. "We are going to have to really earn it."


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