EVANSTON -- Reed Mason, whose senior season has exceeded expectations in every way, struggled mightily in his final home start for Northwestern as he gave up five runs (four earned) in four innings to California in a 16-0 blowout loss on Saturday's Senior Day. Cal scored at least once in every inning, off five different Northwestern pitchers.
It was the team's worst loss since March 25th of last season, when the Wildcats lost 17-1 to St. Mary's. Mason actually got the start in that game too, letting up four runs (one earned) in two innings.
The Wildcats' relief corps didn't help Mason out much, though, as it combined to let the Golden Bears add on 11 runs. On the other hand, Cal's starter, Ryan Mason (no relation to Reed), was dominant in his six innings, striking out 10 batters on three hits. The closest Northwestern (13-35 overall, 5-11 at home) came to scoring a run on Mason was in the 5th, when Jake Schieber and RJ Watters strung together back-to-back singles, but Mat Jones grounded out to end the rally.
This one was a blowout from the first pitch, as Cal (26-18, 16-8 away) led from start to finish. While the Golden Bears' 18 hits mostly did the job in terms of creating run-scoring opportunities, it was the pair of home runs from both Devin Pearson and Brett Cumberland that blew the game open.
Pearson doubled his season home run total on Saturday alone (going from two to four) but Cumberland, the Golden Bears' leading home run hitter, had 12 prior to today's action. For comparison, Northwestern, as a team, has 16 big flies on the year.
Both Pearson and Cumberland hit solo shots in the 3rd inning off Reed Mason, who had command problems all day and never seemed to get comfortable on the mound. He has been a steadying force in Northwestern's turbulent rotation throughout the season and snapped a streak of five starts in which he lasted at least five innings.
Things didn't get much better when Mason left, though, as Danny Katz entered and went just 1.1 innings as Cal tagged him for five runs (four earned) on five hits. He also gave up homers to both Pearson and Cumberland before giving way to Mack Rosman, who allowed two unearned runs but managed to quiet the storm a bit.
It was also Senior Day for Northwestern's six graduating seniors, three of which started the game. Reed Mason, Zach Jones and RJ Watters all got starts in their last series at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park while Antonio Freschet and rarely-used Evan Schreiber entered later in the game. Jake Stolley did not pitch on Saturday but will probably pitch in Monday's finale.
As a good Pac-12 team, Cal just isn't an optimal matchup for the Wildcats and it showed in the opener even though the Golden Bears recently fell out of the USA Today Coaches' Poll and had lost seven of their last 10 games. David Esquer's team was aggressive and made Reed Mason, and the rest of Northwestern's staff, pay for throwing a lot of strikes.
The pair of errors committed by freshman shortstop Jack Dunn, who did make a sparkling diving catch on a Preston Grand Pre popup in short left field in the 5th, didn't help matters much either.
These teams will continue the nonconference series tomorrow with a doubleheader starting at 11:00 am CST. Joe Schindler will get the start for Northwestern in Game 1 while lefty Matt Ladrech will be on the mound for Cal. In Game 2, which will be played right after the conclusion of Game 1, Tommy Bordignon will oppose Tanner Dodson.