BERKELEY — The late-inning magic that propelled Cal to the College World Series last year wasn’t needed Tuesday. Instead, the Bears jumped on a string of USF miscues to earn a 5-3 victory at Evans Diamond.
The game’s tone was set in the bottom of the first when Dons shortstop Aritz Garcia tried to beat Vince Bruno to second, rather than taking the easy out at first base, which would have ended the inning. Bruno was safe by a hair and center fielder Chad Bunting cashed in, slapping a two-run double down the left-field line.
The Dons should have been out of the second without a scratch, too, but pitcher Jordan Remer picked up a slow dribbler along the first-base line that appeared destined to roll foul. By the time the ball was in his glove, Bruno was safe at first and right fielder Danny Oh was headed home to score the Bears’ third run.
“We really kind of gave it away,” Dons coach Nino Giarratano said.
At the plate, the Dons failed to capitalize on a plethora of opportunities. They out-hit the Bears 14-7, but left 14 runners on base, at least one in every inning.
The Dons (5-3) got on the scoreboard in the fifth when center fielder Justin Maffei homered, but the Bears (5-2) added two more in the bottom half of the inning on a pair of clutch two-out doubles from Andrew Knapp and Mitch Delfino.
Despite Murphy’s Law, the Dons still managed to get the tying run on first with two outs in the ninth. The Bears allowed a pair of runs after closer Logan Scott got struck by a line drive and left the game. But with the game on the line, sophomore hurler Trevor Hildenberger induced a harmless grounder to short.
“We’re not clicking offensively, but we grinded out some runs today ... and you know what? That’s a regional team right there,” Bears coach David Esquer said.