April 21, 2011
The No. 15 California Golden Bears came back three times against the No. 9 Arizona State Sun Devils, but couldn't muster a fourth comeback as they fell 6-4 in the 17th inning in the second-longest game in Cal baseball history.
Arizona State plated runs in the second and third inning to take an early 2-0 lead in the game. Sun Devil starter Brady Rogers, who had only walked one batter in 40.0 innings coming into the game, issued a one-out walk to junior catcher Chadd Krist in the fourth inning. He ended up paying for the walk when sophomore first baseman Devon Rodriguez crushed a ball over the right field wall and into the adjacent Edwards Stadium with his third home run of the season, tying the game 2-2.
Cal starter Erik Johnson, who struggled in his first two innings, got into a groove, working all the way through the ninth inning, not allowing another run after the third. In his final six innings of work, Johnson allowed just four hits and walked one batter.
"I couldn't be any more proud of Eric Johnson today," said head coach David Esquer. "He was on the edge in the fourth and fifth inning, and then he just got stronger. It was an outstanding effort. Something that we needed."
With the game tied 2-2, the game went into the tenth inning in the hands of the bullpens for both teams. Arizona State had a pair of singles in the top of the tenth that plated a run, putting them up 3-2.
Senior left fielder Austin Booker led off the bottom of the tenth lacing a single to left field. Junior short stop Marcus Semien also singled, putting runners on the corners. However, Cal had two outs, with the game looking like a win for the Sun Devils in 10 innings and just over 2:45 minutes of play when Krist singled to left to score Booker and tie the game and keep it going.
Arizona State struck again in the top of the 13th. Krist walked to start the inning. Rodriguez smashed a ball that looked like it was going to be his second home run of the game, only to have it caught at the wall by ASU's right fielder. Krist had to scurry back to first, with the right fielder trying to double Krist off first. The throw was close, but was mishandled by the first baseman, allowing Krist to advance to second. Batting with one out and Krist in scoring position, freshman third baseman Derek Campbell, who had come into the game in the 10th inning after starting third baseman Mitch Delfino was lifted for a pinch hitter in the ninth, smacked his second hit of the game, driving in Krist to again tie the game.
After ASU went down 1-2-3 in the 14th, 15th, and 16th, they found their offense in the 17th, scoring two runs on three hits, putting Cal in a position to have to come back for a fourth time in the game. Rodriguez smoked a two-out single down the left field line, but that was all Cal could come up with in the 17th, finally falling 6-4.
"It was a tough ball game back and forth," said Esquer. "We just didn't win when we had a chance. We were a hit away. There is no consolation and no morally victory, but we continue to believe we are capable of competing with anybody at any time. We just needed to win the spot to win the game today and we didn't do that."
The 17 innings played made this the second longest game in Cal baseball history. The longest game in the Cal record books was an 18-inning contest against Santa Clara played in 1943. It was also the second longest game in ASU history. The Sun Devils also had an 18-inning game in their annals. The game lasted five hours and 11 minutes with at least a quarter of the crowd sticking it out to the end.
It is the second time this season, and just the fourth time since 2000, that a Cal has played in a game lasting at least 15 innings. Cal defeated No. 18 Rice, 7-6, in 15 innings earlier this season. The Bears are now 2-2 in extra-inning games this year.
Rodriguez went 3-for-8 with 2 RBI. Krist went 2-for-6, including hitting his 20th double of the season, scoring twice and driving in a run.
Freshman Louie Lechich took the loss, falling to 1-1. He worked 3.1 innings, allowing two hits, both in the 17th inning, two runs, walking four and striking out three.
The Bears (24-10, 9-4 Pac-10) and the Sun Devils (26-9, 9-4 Pac-10) will be back in action on Friday, April 22 at 2:30 p.m. at the Evans Diamond. Sophomore left-hander Justin Jones (5-2, 3.13 ERA) is scheduled to start for Cal. The series will wrap up on Saturday afternoon.