Cal baseball entered its series with No. 7 Texas Christian University having been swept in their last two series against a ranked opponent, outscored by a combined 33 runs in both affairs.
The Bears could not take the series against the Horned Frogs, but Cal notched its first win against a top-25 team and managed to outscore TCU over three games despite dropping two. Not too shabby for the Bears’ final home stand.
Ugly losses to Texas Tech and Oregon State seemed to imply this young Cal squad didn’t quite have what it takes to beat teams in the upper echelon of college baseball, but both of those series came on the road, and playing at Evans Diamond has proved to be incredibly fruitful for the inexperienced players on the team.
If the Bears were going to impress against a great team, their best shot was to play at home.
The offense couldn’t get things going in the first game, recording just three hits and failing to draw a single walk. Junior Preston Grand Pre and sophomore Jeffrey Mitchell Jr., Cal’s first two hitters who have been very solid as of late, both struck out two times.
Sophomore Joey Matulovich was excellent, going seven innings and allowing just one earned run. His six strikeouts were the third he’s totaled in any outing this season and he managed that without allowing a walk either.
The lineup reawoke in the second game, getting out to an early lead on some nifty baserunning. The Bears held a 2-0 advantage until the sixth inning when TCU senior Cam Warner hit a solo home run which sparked a five-run inning.
Freshman Jared Horn was on the mound for the home run and a subsequent double, but it was junior Erik Martinez who let up the other four runs. Martinez was having an absolutely dominant season, bringing a 1.38 ERA into May, but he’s sputtered in the last couple series and he now sports a 3.15 ERA.
Junior Matt Ruff had two RBIs in the late innings to bring Cal within one run, but after Ruff reached second base and was pulled for a pinch runner, Grand Pre could not capitalize and popped up to end the game.
Game three was an uneventful 1-1 affair until the bottom of the sixth, when five singles produced five runs, and the Bears took a commanding 6-1 lead. Freshman Andrew Vaughn, who has been in a bit of a slump after slugging like a future star throughout most of the season, was the first to single in the inning.
Although sophomore Tanner Dodson let up two runs in the eighth inning, Cal had built up enough of a cushion to seal the game. A home run from freshman Cameron Eden in the bottom of that frame was the final nail in the 8-3 win.
It was only one win out of three, but seeing a youthful squad keep the pace with a top team has to qualify as an overall success.