Off in the not-so-far-off distance is a nine-game gauntlet that will play an invaluable part in determining Cal baseball’s postseason fate. In a strange way, those circumstances made the team’s weekend series against Utah one of the most important of the season.
The Utes are far from world-beaters, but this series provided the Bears with one more opportunity to sharpen their claws one last time before facing off against some of the country’s best.
Despite a couple hiccups along the way, Cal handled its business and completed a three-game sweep of Utah, moving up to fourth place in the Pac-12 and moving up five spots in the RPI rankings from No. 42 to No. 37.
Game one (8-4 Cal)
When Cal’s offense comes up in conversation, there are a few names that immediately come to mind: Andrew Vaughn, Cameron Eden, Korey Lee, among others. But the duo that set the tone of Cal’s first game, as well as the series as a whole, was a duo that often gets lost in the shuffle: Sam Wezniak and Grant Holman.
On a night where the usual suspects were relatively quiet, Wezniak and Holman bore the brunt of the offense in the Bears’ 8-4 win, both smacking a home run and driving in three runs apiece.
With Cal’s typical pitching rotation slightly out of whack because of Sam Stoutenborough starting on Monday against BYU, head coach Mike Neu had to get a little creative with his staff.
Opener Arman Sabouri continued the trend of eating up more innings than usual, throwing 3.2 innings of scoreless ball and striking out four.
Without Stoutenborough being used to follow Sabouri, Neu had to rely on his arms in the bullpen to deliver, and deliver they did, as Sean Sullivan, Jack Delmore, Jack Wolger and Rogelio Reyes combined to allow no earned runs and only four hits over 5.1 innings in relief.
Game two (6-4 Cal)
If last Friday’s thrilling comeback against Oregon entertained the idea that Cal was a never-say-die bunch, Saturday’s matinee against Utah confirmed it.
With the Bears down a run heading into the top of the eighth, Holman ripped a double to tie the game, and Connor Mack followed suit with a pinch-hit, two-run blast, propelling a 6-4 win. Holman not only tied the game but finished it off as well, recording the first save of his young career by striking out a pair in the bottom of the ninth.
For the first time in a month, Jared Horn finally looked human. After going at least eight innings in his past four starts, Horn “only” pitched six innings, allowing three earned runs and walks while striking out four.
Game three (13-6 Cal)
Cal managed to score a healthy combined 14 runs in games one and two despite its big boppers’ lack of production at the dish.
In the first two games of the series, Eden, Lee, Vaughn, Quentin Selma and Max Flower combined to hit 8 for 41. Suffice it to say, it was an uncharacteristically cold couple of days for the quintet.
But regression to the mean is a beautiful thing. Those five flexed their collective muscles in a 13-6 onslaught to cap off the series sweep, combining for eight hits and nine RBI. Those hits weren’t cheapies either, as Eden, Lee and Flower all went yard one time apiece while Vaughn left the ballpark twice.