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Baseball: Bears sweep USC on Vaughn walk-off in extras

Golden Bears complete thrilling sweep of USC in dramatic fashion.

Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn hits a two-run home run in the 10th inning to complete the Bears’ sweep of USC.
Jeff Weisinger, CGB

Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn hadn’t hit a walk-off home run since little league. He hit his first walk-off grand-slam in Cal’s 13-9 comeback win over USC Friday night.

On Sunday, he hit his second.

“That’s just special,” Cal head coach David Esquer said of his first baseman afterward. “You don’t see that too often.”

With the game tied at 6 with one out in the 10th and a runner on first, Vaughn blasted a pitch over the wall, flipped his bat toward his dugout and rounded the bases as the Golden Bears defeated USC 8-6, completing the three-game sweep of the Trojans and their third-straight sweep at home.

“This weekend was all about picking each other up,” Vaughn said. “All around a great team weekend. Getting the sweep was awesome and it gives us some momentum going into next weekend.”

Vaughn finished the day going 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBI, two of which coming on the walk-off homer.

“First pitch I kind of figured I would get an off-speed pitch,” Vaughn said. “He threw for a ball and, got to be honest, I was looking dead red.”

“It’s unbelievable,” Vaughn added about hitting his second walk-off homer in three days. “I can’t really describe it. I don’t know what I’m feeling. It’s just really great.”

The theatrics came late for the Bears. USC rocked Cal’s Tanner Dodson on the mound in the ninth inning, tagging him for four runs on five hits. The Trojans scored all four runs with two out in the ninth inning. Lefty Zayne Patino took over for Dodson, needing just one out, and got Stephen Dubb to fly to center for the final out.

Fitting enough, Dodson made the catch in center to end the ninth for the Bears.

The Bears were ineffective at the plate in the bottom half of the ninth, going down in order and sending the game into extras.

The late-game drama and the collapse in the ninth inning by Dodson on the mound overshadowed a solid outing by Cal starter Matt Ladrech. Ladrech kept the USC lineup in check throughout the day, tossing for 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on eight hits with a pair of strikeouts and walks. He also threw 127 pitches on the day as well.

His counterpart, USC starter Marrick Crouse, pitched just as sharp until the sixth inning when Cal tagged him for four runs to take a 5-1 lead. Overall, Crouse pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on 11 hits with four walks and a strikeout.

Both pitchers took the no-decision.

The win marks Cal’s fourth in their last five, however, according to recent history, the road ahead doesn’t look too bright. Cal starts a stretch of five of the next six on the road, starting at to the University of San Francisco on Tuesday, before starting a three-game weekend series at Washington.

Even with the current momentum, the Bears have struggled on the road this season and struggled on the road on Tuesday games following a sweep. After sweeping Washington State at Berkeley, the Bears lost at No. 20 Stanford the following Tuesday. After sweeping Arizona State, they were embarrassed at Saint Mary’s.

“We’re always looking to try to be the same team that plays on the weekend, the same team that plays at Evans Diamond, playing at another venue,” Esquer said. “We haven’t always been able to do that.

“We’re going to have to grow into those wins. We just keep urging the kids that we’ve got to find that comfort and confidence to feel that we could play these kinds of games outside Evans Diamond.”