Walking to the plate in the bottom of the eighth on Sunday, Cal left fielder Darrel Matthews knew his teammates needed him to pick them up.
Batting after Pacific had tied the game in the top of the inning, the Bears had retaken a slim one-run lead. With Matthews on deck, Cal froze Pacific’s infield with a double steal, and shortstop Derek Campbell singled past the Tigers’ third basemen to score center fielder Chad Bunting — but the game still teetered on a knife’s edge.
Matthews smoked a line drive into right field.
“I got a fastball in my zone and drove it,” said Matthews, who went 2-for-3 on the day with two runs scored and two RBI. “I saw (Pacific right fielder Allen Riley) dive, and I was hoping and praying he didn’t catch it.”
The stocky Riley didn’t catch it — he froze for a moment when the ball left Matthews’ bat and couldn’t recover, coming up a foot short on his dive — and when he bellyflopped on the outfield grass, Pacific’s hope for an upset landed with a similarly resounding thud at Evans Diamond.
A few seconds later, Matthews slid into third with a two-run triple, making the score 6-3. The batters behind him followed his lead as Cal (3-0) proceeded to tack on three more runs in the bottom of the eighth, turning what had been a tight contest through the first seven and a half frames into a 9-3 blowout.
“Pacific played us tough, (and) I think our guys faced up to that challenge,” said Cal coach David Esquer of the weekend sweep. “We knew we would have to grind out some wins, and that’s what we did.”
The win capped a stellar weekend for the Bears’ bats that saw them rack up 24 runs on 33 hits. Second basemen Tony Renda led the way, hitting .545 on the weekend and scoring four runs.
His hot streak scared the Pacific pitchers enough that they intentionally walked him twice on Sunday — “They had first base open, so that’s probably why they were doing it,” he demurred with a laugh — which set the table for the meat of the Cal order. Catcher Chadd Krist went 3-for-5 with three RBI, and cleanup hitter Andrew Knapp drove in two more Sunday, providing enough production themselves to down the Tigers. Campbell chipped in with his first two hits of the season to go with two runs scored and the game-winning RBI.
Cal’s pitchers matched their hitters’ offensive production Sunday, holding the Tigers (0-3) to three runs on just five hits. In his first college start, sophomore lefty Michael Theofanopoulos gave up two runs — one earned — through five innings, and the Bears’ bullpen kept it close the rest of the way until the bats broke out.
But the bullpen wasn’t overtaxed on the weekend, with lefty Justin Jones going five solid innings on Friday and righty Matt Flemer shutting down the Tigers over eight on Saturday.