After sweeping Pepperdine on the road, the California Golden Bears marked their return to Evans Diamond with a 7-1 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on March 14. Solid pitching and defense played a key role in the decisive victory. The win was Cal’s eighth on the season and fifth in a row.
Minnesota got off to a hot start with a triple off the bat of leadoff man Alex Boxwell. A sacrifice fly from Luke Pettersen drove Boxwell home for the Gophers’ only run of the night.
The Bears answered with a three-run third inning, started by a single from shortstop Cameron Eden. A double down the right field line from Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. drove Eden home to tie the score at 1-1. The next batter, Andrew Vaughn, was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second for cleanup man Denis Karas. Karas drove a double to left field, sending Mitchell home and Vaughn to third. A sacrifice fly from designated hitter Tanner Dodson brought Vaughn home for the final run of the inning, putting the Bears ahead of the Gophers 3-1 going in to the fourth.
Strong pitching from Rogelio Reyes and several big plays in the field, including a leaping catch from shortstop Eden and a sliding stop by second baseman Anthony Walters, brought the Bears through the fourth and fifth innings
Freshman Arman Sabouri took over on the mound for the Bears in the sixth inning. Sabouri struck out Boxwell and a double play from Eden, Walters and Vaughn closed out the inning, keeping the Golden Gophers scoreless through the sixth.
Dodson led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a homerun over the right field fence, bringing Cal’s lead to 4-1.
The Bears’ bats heated up again in the bottom of the seventh, as catcher Tyrus Greene came up to the plate with runners on first and second and two outs. Greene hit a grounder that stayed just inside the third base line for a double, sending home Vaughn from second and moving Dodson to third. Another grounder off the bat of Max Flower pushed Dodson and Greene across home, extending Cal’s lead to 7-1.
Cal pitcher Zayne Patino was brought in to a bases loaded, no outs situation in the top of the eighth inning. Patino worked out of the jam with two strikeouts and a ground out, holding Minnesota to one run.
Vaughn moved from first to the mound to close out the game for the Golden Bears. A double play from Eden, second baseman Ripken Reyes and first baseman Matt Ruff and a catch by centerfielder Jonah Davis capped off Cal’s victory.
Rogelio Reyes came away with the win, his second of the season.
“I was able to locate my fastball, had my curve ball working, my change up working,” Rogelio Reyes said of his outing.
Golden Bears Coach David Esquer noted the importance of pitching and defense for the young Cal team.
“We’ve said all along that our whole season will be predicated on pitching and defense,” he said. “Our pitching is starting to come around.”
Cal has several weapons in the pitching rotation, including sophomore Joey Matulovich, who Esquer said has had several “good starts in a row,” and Rogelio Reyes. The Golden Bears also have a solid bullpen, Esquer highlighted Patino, Vaughn and junior Erik Martinez.
Despite scoring seven runs, the Golden Bears did strand eight on base.
“That’s just age, we’re young, we have a lot of immature at bat’s,” Esquer said. “But we’ve done a good job of getting runners on base and creating opportunities.”
The five-game winning streak gives the Cal team confidence heading in to the three-game home series against Pac-12 opponent Oregon this weekend, Esquer said.
“This weekend is going to be a huge challenge,” he said. “There isn’t one weekend off in the Pac-12 this year.”
The California Golden Bears will take on the Oregon Ducks at Evans Diamond this weekend, kicking off Friday, March 17 with first pitch at 7:05 p.m.