Saying it was a wild one doesn’t even begin to explain the madhouse that ensued at Sunken Diamond Friday night.
After a rapidly paced regulation nine innings, Cal and Stanford forged into the cool night in a game that fell just short of six hours. Not until the 18th inning did Cal junior Tony Renda smash a two-out single to center to plate Mike Reuvekamp, giving the Golden Bears a 5-4 win.
Hindsight makes winning or losing seem almost irrelevant compared to the 12th inning, though, which will stand as one of the most chaotic innings in the history of the storied Cal-Stanford rivalry.
Deadlocked at 2-2 to start the 12th, Cal rallied in dramatic fashion to take the lead on a two-out, two-strike, two-run single from senior catcher Chadd Krist. Emotions were running high at what seemed like the turning point of the game.
Oh, but things were just getting cooking.
In the bottom of the 12th, Stanford mounted an improbable comeback. With two on, Austin Wilson roped an RBI double to cut Cal’s lead to 4-3. And after an intentional walk loaded the bases, the proverbial fit hit the shan.
Actually, the fit was a literal one, after pinch hitter Brett Michael Doran drove a ball into the left-field corner. The ball dropped just foul on the warning track, but home-plate umpire Billy Speck called it a fair ball. Stanford’s jubilant players stormed the diamond it celebration. Cal’s bullpen threw up their arms in outrage, as manager David Esquer vehemently charged towards Speck to argue the call. For a moment, Esquer’s objection seemed futile. But, with the Cardinal moshing in celebration behind second base, the umpires decidedly conferred to overturn the fair call. The decision not only reset Doran’s at bat with Stanford trailing 4-3. It also nullified the walk-off win, leaving Stanford’s players and fans simmering in disillusionment.
Oh, but there’s more.
After a delay to allow Cal pitcher Logan Scott to warm up, Doran delivered a clutch RBI single on the very next pitch to tie it. Doran cued an infield bounder just past the second-base side of the mound, allowing Brian Ragira to easily score the tying run from third. As Cal’s infield scuffled to make a late throw to first, Wilson attempted to score all the way from second base, stutter-stepping around third before making a dash for the plate. But, Cal first baseman Andrew Knapp wheeled and fired, nailing the sliding Wilson at home, thanks to a show-stopping swipe tag by Krist. Livid, Wilson popped up and spiked his helmet in a burst of frustration, leading to his immediate ejection.
The ejection loomed large, causing Wilson – Stanford’s team leader with nine home runs this season – to miss two at bats over the final six innings.
It’s almost unfathomable that Renda entered into his final at bat in the 18th amid an 0-for-7 night. The reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year is finishing another sensational season, having entered the final series of the regular season fifth in the Pac-12 in hitting. After his heroic 1-for-8 night, Renda is hitting at a .355 clip.
More unfathomable is that after the marathon contest, the starting pitching matchup of Mark Appel and Matt Flemer is something of an afterthought. Appel – who by most accounts figures to be the first overall pick in next month’s MLB draft – put forth the usual smooth and stellar performance, working seven innings while allowing one run on six hits, striking out eight and walking two.
Most unfathomable is this was just the first game of a three-game set. First pitch for both Saturday and Sunday at Sunken Diamond are scheduled for 1 p.m.