Two of Cal's hottest spring teams – women's tennis and baseball -- enjoyed banner weekends, going undefeated over three days. The Sunday victories in each case were a little tighter than the earlier contests, but the Bears prevailed each time.
The women's tennis team, ranked No. 1 in the country, annihilated Oregon, 7-0, on Friday, then edged Stanford, 4-3, on Sunday. The Bears are 17-0, although the Stanford victory was a non-league affair and did not affect Cal's Pac-12 mark of 5-0.
The baseball team, ranked 13th, stretched its winning streak to seven by sweeping a three-game series from UCLA. The Bears clobbered the Bruins, 9-1 and 8-2 the first two games. Sunday they took a 5-1 lead into the ninth inning only to see the Bruins score twice and put the tying run on base against closer Erik Martinez before the Bears got a game-ending double play to preserve the 5-3 victory. Cal, which hosts Stanford on Tuesday night is 18-6 and 7-2.
The tennis match was clinched before it was over, but the Bears needed every one of their individual victories. Appropriately it was No. 1 player Maegan Manasse who delivered the clincher. With Cal leading 3-1l she dispatched Stanford's ace Carol Zhao 7-6, 6-4 to give Cal an insurmountable 4-1 lead.
It was not without some drama. Manasse was serving with a 5-3 lead and looking at a couple of match points. But Zhao broke the Cal star's service and seemed poised to wrest control of the match.
"I didn't feel it slipping away," Manasse said afterwards. "It took me two games to adjust. I had to keep my ground, use my legs, work the point when she wants to come in. And I won."
Coach Amanda Augustus was monitoring Manasse's match and giving her advice and encouragement between games. "This was a real good not just on-court victory, but mental victory," Augustus said. "Carol, you've got really beat her, she's not going give up and she's a really, really good player. Not only did that clinch the match for the team but it helps as a next step in Meagan's development as a player."
Manasse, who had never beaten Zhao, said she was unaware she was about to provide the deciding point. "I had no idea," she said. "You never know. I just knew that I really, really wanted to win. I did see that towards the end of my match, that Klara (Fabikova) finished and there were like three matches left, so I could be the deciding point."
Cal lost the doubles point to open the match, but 64th-ranked senior Lynn Chi, playing in her last home dual meet, upset Stanford's 57th-ranked Caroline Doyle, 6-1, 6-3, and tied the match at 1-1. Then Karla Popovic and Fabikova easily won their matches to set up the Manasse for the decider.
Stanford won the final two maches to make the final score closer.
"It was a good weekend," Augustus said. "We knew we were going to be tested today, which is good for us. It's always a great match when we play them (Stanford). They fight to the end. … We had a great crowd today. Which was exciting. Everybody got to see great tennis."
The weekend got off to an ominous start for the baseball team when top starter Daulton Jefferies was scratched with lower back stiffness. It is not considered serious but Coach David Esquer had to shuffle the rotation at the last minute.
Senior Ryan Mason, who had been scheduled to go on Saturday, answered the call Friday and threw seven innings, giving up just one run and scattering seven hits.
"I've said it before. If he's not the best competitor I've ever coached, he's right there," Esquer said. "That's Ryan Mason. He competes and he gives you what he has and will give you a chance to win and he will lay it out there for you. He did that today, and that was huge. We also really took some good swings on their guy (Griffin Canning), who is a real quality pitcher, and it was one of those days where we played old. We looked like we'd been there we need to play with that experience to play against these good teams."
The offense, which totaled 13 hits, was led by third baseman Mitchell Kranson who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs.
On Saturday, right-hander Jeff Bain, who a week earlier couldn't get out of the first inning against Oregon State, allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings to earn the victory. He was supported by another robust offensive output of 11 hits, including a pair of home runs and five RBIs by Brenden Farney.
"I got some good pitches to hit tonight," Farney said after his breakout performance. "Coach Esquer has been telling me about my pitch selection and that maybe my swing has been kind of long lately so I worked on some short drills."
Kranson also contributed a home run Saturday night. "We've been bouncing back like that all year. We've got a different guy every night. We're rolling on all cylinders right now."
It continued on Sunday, as switch-hitting catcher Brett Cumberland belted a pair of home runs. He has ten round-trippers this season in just 73 at-bats.
"You don't see this kind of pace anywhere really," Esquer said. "And he's doing a good job of being a good hitter (.425 average). He got an RBI on a single there right-handed. We walks. Every now and then he'll get over aggressive but not too often. He gives us some fear in the middle of the lineup."
Cumberland is certain to surpass last year's team home run leaderLucas Erceg who finished with 11. He could even threaten Xavier Nady's school record of 23.
He was asked if he had ever been this locked-in. "Probably not," he said. "It feels good right now. Hopefully it continues."
Matt Ladrech, who came out of the bullpen last weekend to throw 7 2/3 hitless innings in the finale of the Oregon State sweep, started Sunday and lasted into the seventh inning. He gave up just one unearned run to the Bruins who did reach him for nine hits.
"The hits were there, but we like to think a lot of them were pretty soft contact," said Ladrech. "The defense was unbelievable." He was helped by two double plays.
UCLA reached Martinez for three hits and two runs and had two runners on base with one out. "With our closer on the mound I wasn't worried," Cumberland said. "He's a great closer. He comes in there and gets the job done. … He's got good stuff, they're going to miss eventually. "
The Bears statistical domination was impressive. In the three games they outscored the Bruins, 22-6, out-hit them 36-27, and out-homered them 5-0.
The one downer was Jefferies, but Esquer did not seem too concerned. "It is kind of day to day," the coach said. "He said he felt better today than he has. Last year it happened and he had to miss a couple of starts and we ended up one pitcher stronger because we had to develop somebody in crunch time, it was Bain. And it helped us down the stretch. It's not ideal but everyone is going through it around the league."