What would Cal baseball (17-11) be next year if junior Andrew Vaughn goes to “The Show”? The Washington State series this past weekend in which the Bears went 3-0 is the closest that the team has come to answering that question this season, and that answer seems to be much more positive than people think.
Despite hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game, Vaughn had the least offensive influence on the games than in any other series this season, his talent at the plate being largely diluted either by intentional walks or strikeouts. Vaughn did not tally a single hit in either Friday or Sunday’s games and only summed two on Saturday.
In his figurative absence, however, Cal was still able to rally offensively and secure its second sweep in a row. A range of players in the batting order stepped up to contribute to the Bears’ three wins — sophomore Sam Wezniak hit three home runs, juniors Max Flower and sophomore Quentin Selma each recorded one homer, and juniors Cameron Eden and Korey Lee along with sophomore Darren Baker each added important RBI hits.
Cal’s offensive might was not the only highlight of the weekend. The Bears’ pitching staff on each of the three days did an impressive job keeping the Cougars’ scores to a minimum, all while exhibiting some of their first true long relief performances of the season. The wins this weekend were credited to freshman Sam Stoutenborough on Friday, junior Jared Horn on Saturday and junior Rogelio Reyes on Sunday.
Friday’s game got off to a slow start with no runs being scored until the sixth inning. Without any home runs, Cal reached its final score of 6-0 through a combination of rapid-fire singles and doubles between the sixth and eighth innings. Stoutenborough, who pitched more consecutive innings than ever before in his collegiate career, allowed only three Washington State hits over his seven innings on the mound.
“I have been going in in the third inning lately and they just kind of let me go,” Stoutenborough said. “Thankfully today I did pretty good so they let me just ride through the rest of the game, but the defense did great, we hit the ball well, we did everything we needed to do to get the win.”
Moving into Saturday, Cal could have easily dropped the win over their excitement from the night before, but they came out guns blazing, defeating the Cougars once again with a score of 6-1. Horn pitched the first eight innings of the game and gave up six hits, but quick action from his backing defense permitted only one of those hits to appear on the scoreboard.
“I think it would have been easy to let down but I thought our guys came focused. We had a great pitching performance by Jared and then the offense showed up,” Cal baseball head coach Mike Neu said. “It was a great game to not stub your toe.”
The Bears offense went full speed again on Sunday, though losing a bit of their accuracy on defense. By the seventh inning, the score had settled at 9-2, only for Cal to give up three Washington State runs in its last at-bats in the eighth to solidify the final score of 9-5.
Overall, the Bears flexed their capability across the batting order, with their offensive power only growing with each game in the series. At this point in the season, Cal has also narrowed down which of its pitchers can execute the most successful long stints on the mound: Stoutenborough, Horn and Reyes.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Bears got a taste of what it would be like without an extremely influential Vaughn in the lineup — and the results of this experiment came back positive.