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Series Recap: WSU drops 2 of 3 at home to Cal

Despite a strong start, the Cougs couldn’t seal a series win.

Washington State Cougars Baseball Jack Ellis/CougCenter

The Washington State Cougars dropped the final two games of their three-game set against the California Golden Bears over the weekend, losing the series two games to one.

With the series slated to start Thursday, snow postponed the series opener to a doubleheader on Friday. WSU (13-21, 5-13 in Pac-12) picked up the first game 4-1, but Cal (18-17, 9-9) blew out the Cougs in the second leg, 16-4. With more snow forecasted for later on Saturday, the series finale was moved up to 11 a.m. that day, and Cal proved to be the early riser this time around, securing the series win in the rubber match, 7-4.

Game 1: WSU 4, Cal 1

Despite the snow having melted by Friday morning’s first pitch, Cal seemed to have left their bats out for too long. Cole McMillan (3-3, 6.60 ERA) mowed right through the Golden Bears, allowing no hits after the first inning in his five innings of work.

The Cougs got aggressive early on and tried to capitalize on a Jacob McKeon rope down the left field line with Jack Smith on first, but Cal completed a perfect 7-6-2 relay to gun down Smith at the plate and keep WSU off the board early.

With runners on first and second and two outs in the third, McKeon again punished the baseball, with a 102 mph shot to center field to bring home Elijah Hainline and Smith — this time without a throw — as McKeon slid into third safely with his first triple of the season.

WSU struck again in a two-out situation in the fourth. Nate Swarts jumped on a 2-0 pitch, sending it out to right and over the wall for an oppo-taco two-run home run to give the Cougs a 4-0 lead.

After five innings of shutout baseball, McMillan’s day came to a close after walking Cal’s leadoff batter in the sixth, then plunking the next on a 2-2 count. Tyler Hoeft got the Golden Bears to roll into a double-play, but surrendered an RBI-single to Cole Elvis to put Cal on the board. The RBI resulted in McMillan’s final statline reading; 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 1 H, 5 K, 3 BB on 74 pitches. Cal threatened to score more in the fifth, loading the bases after another single and a walk, for Keshawn Ogans, who entered the series hitting .336 in 139 ABs. Ogans couldn’t take advantage of the golden opportunity for the Bears, rolling into a fielder’s choice preventing any further damage in the sixth.

Chase Grillo entered the game in the eighth and retired the heart of Cal’s order 1-2-3. Still leading 4-1 in the ninth, Grillo closed the door on game one, getting pinch-hitter Rodney Green Jr. looking on a called strike three to seal a 4-1 Cougar win in game one of the day and recorded a six-out save for himself.

Game 2: Cal 16, WSU 4

Cal’s bats got off to a much hotter start in game two. Facing Cougars starter Grant Taylor (2-4, 3.91 ERA), Cal got on the board early with a Caleb Lomavita two-out RBI triple on a flyball that just got over the head of Cougar CF Kyler Stancato for the early 1-0 lead. In the bottom half of the first, Kodie Kolden singled and moved up to second on a wild pitch. He scored two batters later on a Smith single up the middle to tie the game at 1.

The game didn’t stay tied for too much longer. Nate Manning put a low-inside fastball over the right field fence to put Cal back on top 3-1. Just as quickly as Cal’s starter Joseph King (3-1, 2.68 ERA) had started the game, he was relieved after just one inning of work. WSU got their own chance to tie it back up in the second against King’s replacement, Josh White, with two runners in scoring position and two outs, but Kolden couldn’t take advantage, striking out swinging. An Elvis sac-fly in the third put Cal up 4-1 through three.

After pitching into his fifth walk of the game to start the fifth inning, Taylor was relieved after just four innings of work. Taylor surrendered four runs on two hits, striking out four on 77 pitches. Caden Kaelber worked a scoreless fifth for the Cougs before Brian Green handed the ball to Dakota Hawkins to pitch the sixth. The Golden Bears began to open the game up off Kaelber. Back-to-back singles got the inning going and Dom Souto cashed in for Cal with a two-run single up the middle to extend Cal’s lead to five.

Kolby Kmetko opened the seventh in relief for the Cougs. Kmetko gave up a lead-off double then walked in a run on four pitches with the bases loaded and two outs to put Cal up 7-1. Cooper Barnum then lost a seven-pitch battle to the first Golden Bear he saw in relief, walking in another Cal run. Souto then picked up his third and fourth RBIs of the game, punching a middle-middle fastball into right centerfield to plate two more Cal runs and blow the game wide open with a commanding 10-1 lead.

Kolden gave the Cougars some life in the bottom half of the seventh, turning on a 2-0 fastball for a three-run shot with two outs to pull WSU back within six. Cal quickly erased any hope of a WSU comeback the following inning. Cal hung up a five spot in the eighth, anchored by five total walks issued by three different WSU relievers. Two of those walks came with the bases loaded to score two for Cal. The crushing blow proved to come from, who else, but Souto with a double down the left field line to clear the bases and put Cal ahead 15-4. Souto finished the day 3-for-5 with seven RBIs. The Golden Bears pushed one more across in the ninth after a lead-off triple turned into a run on a sac-fly for 16-4 drubbing of the Cougs.

Game 3: Cal 7, WSU 4

In the Saturday morning rubber-match, WSU jumped on top quick. A Justin Van De Brake sac fly scored McKeon from third and moved Colin Montez up to McKeon’s former place of residence at third. Montez scored on the next at-bat as Kyle Russell fought off the 0-2 inside pitch, punching it into right field for an RBI-single to put WSU up 2-0 in the second frame.

Cougs starter McKabe Cottrell (1-6, 6.69 ERA) ran into trouble in the third. Souto continued his torment of Cougar pitchers with a lead-off double down the left field line then scored two pitches later on a single up the middle from Nathan Martorella, cutting the lead in half at 2-1. WSU responded with an RBI single off the bat of Smith to score Kolden from second, pushing lead back up to two. Cottrell was relived to start the fifth after giving up another double to Souto. Cottrell gave up just one run on four hits in four completed innings of work. He struck out four and walked two on 69 pitches. Cam Liss kept Souto from scoring as he retired the next three Cal batters to get out of the fifth unharmed.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Van De Brake smoked a line drive down the left field line for his second RBI of the game, scoring McKeon from second, putting WSU ahead 4-1 headed into the seventh.

Just like Cottrell, Liss’s day ended after allowing a lead-off double to start the seventh, from Nathan Manning this time around. Grillo came in to try and limit the Cal damage. A wild pitch moved Manning to third, who then scored on a sac-fly from — guess who? — Souto. Souto finished the series hitting 5 for 12 (.417) with eight RBIs. With two outs and nobody on, the Golden Bears began to put together a two-out rally on Grillo. The Golden Bears strung four straight singles together to tie the game at 4-4.

Green turned to Kaelber to get the Cougs out of the jam. With runners on the corners and a full count to Trevor Tishenkel, Kaelber’s payoff pitch missed high and outside for ball four. Not only did the ball miss the zone for a walk, it popped in and out of the glove of Cougar catcher Will Cresswell and got behind the Cougar catcher. The drop allowed Cal’s catcher, Lomavita, enough time to come sliding across home to give Cal the 5-4 lead.

Cal plated two more in the ninth on a base hit up the middle from Elvis, putting WSU down three headed into the final frame. The Cougars put two on with one out but couldn’t drive either in as Cal completed the comeback, scoring six unanswered runs, to capture the series at Bailey-Brayton.

WSU will look to grab some momentum on Wednesday in Seattle against the Seattle U Redhawks at 3 p.m. before traveling down to Eugene for a three-game set with the Oregon Ducks.