Cal baseball sweeps USC on walk-off home run in extra innings

Lianne Frick/Staff

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On Sunday, the Cal baseball team entered a home finale against USC on the verge of sweeping a three-game series. The Trojans, however, refused to fall down so easily.

After blowing a four-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, the Bears secured the series sweep in extras. For a second time this weekend, freshman Andrew Vaughn blasted a walk-off home run to give his team a victory. To say Cal had an easy series, however, is an overstatement.

Cal opened the series Friday with a game that lasting just over four hours, but in the end, the young group of Bears kept their composure when it mattered most.

Vaughn brought home the win for Cal in dramatic fashion, hitting a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth. He instantly made opposing pitcher, redshirt sophomore Bryce Dyrda, regret throwing him an outside fastball, smacking the ball over the right wall.

Cal came out with the same amount of passion in game two, and did not lose focus like it has so many times this year. Sophomore Jeffrey Mitchell Jr. made sure his team kept the energy level high, shadowing Vaughn by coming through as a hero himself. After going hitless in four at bats, Mitchell came through in the bottom of the eighth by singling up the middle to give his team a 9-8 lead. And for the second day in a row, junior closer Erik Martinez secured the victory after pitching a solid ninth inning.

Sophomore Tanner Dodson ensured the Bears began game three on a high note, making up for his lack of performance on the mound this season by producing at the plate. He put his team on the board early on in the first inning by blooping a single into right field to drive in Mitchell. A Trojan run in the following inning ensured that the game would be up for grabs for either team to take.

In the bottom of the sixth, uncharacteristic hero, freshman Max Flower came through when it mattered most. With a 1-0 count, he smacked his first career homer into left-center field, beginning a four-run rally that would put the Bears up 5-1 heading into the seventh.

But unlike the last two games, Cal’s closer failed when it mattered most. The troubles for Dodson on the mound this year continued after he allowed four runs in the ninth inning, giving up the lead to make it a 6-6 ball game.

Vaughn eased Dodson’s pain in the bottom of the tenth by hitting a walk-off homer, much thanks of Mitchell who was able to get Vaughn to the plate after forcing a walk.

Unlike its last few road trips, Cal won’t have to travel far from home for its next game of the season. San Francisco, coming off a series win over Santa Clara, will welcome the Bears into the city this Tuesday. There’s no doubt the Bears have made tremendous strides this season, but the signs of how young they truly are is something they can’t show against the Dons.

“We’re always looking for consistency, were always looking to be the same team that we are at home,” said head coach David Esquer. “We want to play the way we do at Evans Diamond at any other venue, and we haven’t always been able to do that, but that’s just part of being young.”

Alex Quintana covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].

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