Last season junior Denis Karas was just a regular underclassman on the Cal baseball team, only starting in 15 games. This year, however, he emerged as one of the team’s most valuable leaders — something much needed after losing so many seasoned veterans.
And he proved over the weekend in an away series against Pepperdine that he was primed and ready for the new role.
Karas got the series started off on the right track by closing in on three hits and four RBI, helping Cal secure a high-scoring 12-7 series opening victory Friday.
The game was tied 2-2 after three innings — appearing open for either team to take advantage.
And the Bears were able to do just that, having one of the best innings of the entire season in the top of the fifth. Cal broke the game wide open by hitting three straight homers in the inning, beginning with sophomore Jonah Davis, who broke the tie after smashing a ball over the right field scoreboard, giving his team a 3-2 lead.
Sophomore Jeffrey Miller, Jr. and freshman Andrew Vaughn kept the energy going after Davis’ smash, getting on first and second off a walk and hit, respectively.
But they didn’t stay there much longer, turning the bases after a three-run home run from Karas. Sophomore Tyrus Greene ended the inning on an even higher note, hitting the team’s third homerun of the inning — making it a 7-2 game.
“I think our offense is starting to get their feet on the ground and get more experience,” said Cal head coach David Esquer. “We played pretty well against the quality of Pepperdine’s team.”
The Bears continued the rally into the last few innings, making the final score 12-7 after it was all said and done.
Cal carried over its dominance into day two, as freshman Jared Horn dominated on the mound to secure a tight 3-2 win. He kept the Bears in the game by only allowing two runs and five hits in 6.2 innings of pitching.
By the end of the day, Horn was left with a smile on his face, striking out a career high eight batters and picking up his first collegiate win.
“Jared Horn took some steps forward that we’re going to need, and I thought he battled pretty well,” Esquer said.
The second game of the weekend stood much closer. The Bears remained down a run heading into the fifth inning, but Davis impressed again by breaking another close game. He singled in freshman Cameron Eden, bringing him home from second to make it a 2-1 game. Vaughn added an insurance run in the top of the sixth, sending a homer over the left wall to give Cal a road series victory.
The strong pitching of the Bears carried over into the last game of the series Sunday. Sophomore starting pitcher Joey Matulovich picked up where Horn left off, pulling off one of the best games of his career by only allowing one earned run off five hits.
Eden continued the weekend of clutch hitting to give his team a third straight victory. He broke another tie breaker in the top of the seventh, catching rival starting pitcher Wil Jensen, who, like Matulovich, had been spectacular all day.
The Bears finished the weekend with a 3-1 win, sweeping the series and giving them some much needed confidence heading into the week.
Alex Quintana covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].