Usually it’s hard to find a good thing after being outscored 20-3 in the first two games of a three-game series. Thankfully for Cal, it’s hard not to spot the 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame of sophomore starting pitcher Joey Matulovich, especially when he’s putting up numbers like he did Sunday against the Ducks.
Matulovich and the rest of the Cal crew picked up game three of their weekend series against Oregon, 4-1. Nonetheless, it was a miserable first couple of days for the Bears against their neighbors from the north. One would think that after a 7-1 beatdown Friday, the only place to go from there is up.
After a frame Saturday, the Bears led 2-0 and were in good position to even up the series at one apiece. Two frames later, Cal was down 9-2 and wondering what the heck just happened. Starting pitcher Jared Horn was tagged for six runs, five of them earned, over 2 ⅓ innings, in what was easily the freshman’s most disappointing outing of the season. Freshman Arman Sabouri couldn’t stop the bleeding, giving up four runs (one earned) over 2.2 innings and causing the fat lady to sing early at Evans Diamond. The Bears would limp to the finish line with a final score of 13-2.
But even after being thoroughly embarrassed by a school with a mascot that wears a Donald Duck sailing outfit, Matulovich and the rest of the Cal lineup would not lay down to allow the sweep.
The freshman, who struck out 10 batters in his last outing, changed his approach by pitching to contact this contest. Whether it was intentional or not, these results paid off for Matulovich as he completed 8.1 innings of near-perfect baseball.
“These guys were tough to strike out,” Matulovich said. “There were some pitches that other teams would have struck out on but these guys were swinging and making contact. A lot of pop-ups, but an out’s an out.”
With a lefty-heavy lineup, the Ducks made first baseman Andrew Vaughn and right fielder Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. put in nine innings of work on the field, as they pulled 12 balls to the right side for outs. Matulovich’s lone strikeout wasn’t thrown until the eighth inning, when he got pinch-hitter Taylor Travess swinging.
“I was just trying to live in,” Matulovich said. “When they were trying to cheat in, I’d move the ball away again.”
Cal’s offense came on a couple of two-spots in the second and eighth innings. Back-to-back doubles from sophomore Jonah Davis and freshman Max Flower broke the game’s scoreless tie. Both doubles were hit in nearly identical places, down the left field line, but with Flower’s laser falling just centimeters on the fair side of the foul line.
With two outs in the eighth, third baseman Denis Karas gave Cal a run it lost in the seventh inning back with a deep solo shot to left field. Designated hitter Tanner Dodson followed up the dong with a booming double, and Davis subsequently brought him in with a double of his own.
It’s uncommon for a Sunday starter to put up Friday starter numbers. But after throwing a complete game against Pepperdine and now going eight innings against the Ducks, Cal’s young pitching is showing growth and the ability to win no matter which day of the week it is.
Chris Tril is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].