Cal baseball makes playoff charge with key sweep over Arizona to complete home slate

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Ethan Epstein/File

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In the spirit of “move-out season” with the semester coming to a close, the Bears whipped out their brooms and sent the Wildcats packing.

In the final home series of the season, Cal baseball (29-19, 14-13) emerged victorious in all three games against Arizona (29-20, 10-14) on the back of a red-hot offense. The Bears’ first sweep against a conference opponent this year provided a much-needed jolt for their postseason push.

“We’re definitely on the bubble,” said Cal head coach Mike Neu. “That was a huge weekend, probably put us back in the conversation.”

Cal got its sticks going at an opportune time this weekend, scoring 37 runs in total.

The tallies came in bunches, with the home squad plating at least four men in five different innings. Every game featured at least one Cal hitter who recorded four RBI.

“We’re a very, very good hitting team, but hitting can go cold at times, even with as good as we are. It was great to see us pick that up,” Neu said.

With this much run support, the pitching didn’t have to be stellar. While the bullpen had some shaky outings, the starters were solid, which was more than enough to get by.

Friday’s game also featured a little bit of history, as Cal junior closer Tanner Dodson set a new school record for saves in a single season, with 11 thus far in 2018.

The Bears wrapped up a stellar home campaign, finishing the year with a 21-8 record at Evans Diamond.

“We are going to at least be in conversation, and that won’t be our decision, so we just have to do what we can do, and all that really is, is play well and hopefully win games,” Neu said.

Game one (Final: 9-3 Cal)

Before the Bears’ hitters hit their stride, they received a quality outing from senior starter Matt Ladrech (7-4), who held the Wildcats to one run over five innings in his final home start.

Sophomore Cameron Eden drove in the first two runs of the game with an RBI double in the second and a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

A pair of RBI singles from freshman Sam Wezniak and sophomore Max Flower in the fifth made it a 4-1 game.

All four runs were charged to star Arizona  junior starter Cody Deason (5-5), whose ERA rose to 2.64 after the outing, still good for sixth in the conference.

Wezniak was the first Bear to reach four RBI in a game this weekend, blasting the game open with a three-run jack in the seventh.

Dodson received an extended outing on Friday, pitching three innings of one-run ball to record his school-record 11th save of the year.

Game two (Final: 16-6 Cal)

In the top of the third, the Wildcats capitalized on Cal sophomore starter Jared Horn’s throwing error to put up a four-spot.

The Bears answered with a bang in the bottom half of the frame, as junior Jonah Davis slugged a game-tying grand slam off of Arizona junior starter Michael Flynn with one out. Two batters later, Flower teed up Flynn for a solo shot to put the home team ahead.

Cal sophomore Arman Sabouri (4-2) relieved Horn in the fifth and gave up a pair of runs in the sixth, which put Arizona ahead once again.

The Bears tied the game on junior Ripken Reyes’ RBI single, after which star sophomore slugger Andrew Vaughn launched a go-ahead three-run bomb off the Rec Sports building beyond the left field wall.

After tacking on one more run in the seventh, the Bears put up six more in the eighth, courtesy of a trio of Arizona errors to put the game out of reach once again.

Sabouri would retire the next nine in order to pick up the win in a stellar five-inning performance.

Game three (Final: 12-11 Cal)

The Bears did all their damage on the offensive end in two innings, scoring six times in both the fourth and the sixth.

Cal junior starter Aaron Shortridge (4-2) delivered a quality start, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings of work for the win.

The win did not come easy, however, as the Bears almost let a nine-run lead evaporate thanks to a pair of Vaughn errors at first.

The Wildcats capitalized on both occasions, scoring four times each in the eighth and ninth. Five of those runs were unearned.

Arizona brought the winning run to the plate with two out in the ninth, but senior Erik Martinez sat down fellow senior Ryan Haug on a strikeout to close the door and secure the sweep.

Leo Xie covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @leoxie_24

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