Walk-Off Magic Returns
BERKELEY – In what was arguably a must-win scenario to keep its postseason hopes alive, California defeated 12th-ranked Stanford, 5-4, on Steven Zobac's two-run walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday afternoon at Evans Diamond.
With their sixth walk-off win of the season, the Golden Bears (25-22, 11-12 Pac-12) knotted the Big Series and snapped a three-game skid.
Facing a 4-3 deficit with only three outs remaining, Cal's rally was jump started by a leadoff double in the left-center gap from Nathan Martorella, who also homered in a standout 3-for-4 performance. An infield single by Darren Baker in the next at bat put the tying run at third base with no outs. After a flyout to shallow center field, Baker stole second base, setting the table for Zobac to deliver a two-run single up the middle on an 0-2 count that scored Connor Mack – who pinch ran for Martorella – and Baker for the win.
Both runs were credited to Stanford closer Zach Grech, the nation's saves leader (13). Stanford dropped to 28-11 (13-7 Pac-12) with the loss.
Cal's previous three runs in the contest were scored via home runs. Quentin Selma roped a two-run home run, his second dinger of the series, past the right-field wall in the bottom of the first, giving Cal a short-lived 2-1 lead. Martorella's solo shot came in the sixth, but the Bears still found themselves trailing after early defensive miscues put them in a hole.
Three Cal errors across the first two innings gave way to four Stanford runs and a 4-2 deficit by the time the Bears stepped into the box for their second chance to hit. After plating one unearned run in the opening frame, Stanford added another during a three-run second inning. Cal starter Sean Sullivan was tagged with all four runs (two earned). Despite allowing seven hits, Sullivan was gritty in his six innings of work; the right-hander issued just one walk and struck out seven while settling into a groove with four scoreless frames from the third inning on.
Stanford's bats had no success against a trio of Cal relievers over the final three innings. Jack Wolger and Ian Villers worked a pair of consecutive 1-2-3 innings in the seventh and eighth and Sam Stoutenborough stranded two inherited runners in the ninth with an inning-ending pick-off at second base. Stoutenborough (1-2) earned the win by tallying the final out.
- Cal improved to 2-3 against nationally-ranked opponents this season.
- Cal's four pitchers held Stanford to just two hits over the final five innings and kept the Cardinal scoreless over the final seven frames.
- Quentin Selma's home run was his 10th of the season and his fifth career long ball against Stanford.
- Nathan Martorella tied a career high with three hits, two of which went for extra bases.
- The Bears struck out just three times offensively. It's the fourth time this year they've struck out three times or less.
- Darren Baker (2-for-3) pulled within nine hits of the 200-hit milestone for his career. He has 191 through Saturday's win.
Sunday's rubber match between Cal and No. 12 Stanford will start at 1 p.m. PDT from Evans Diamond.
For coverage of Cal baseball, please follow the Bears on Twitter (@CalBaseball), Instagram (@CalBaseball) and Facebook (/CalBaseball/).