The Cal baseball team entered this weekend’s home series against Arizona State two games below .500, in danger of allowing an uneven performance in Pac-12 play to get worse.
But the Bears, from the top of the lineup to the bottom, didn’t allow this scenario to play out. For the second straight weekend, Cal was able to sweep a Pac-12 opponent at home, demonstrating that it has much more to prove in the conference.
“We’ve been a victim of that domino effect, where that one negative domino starts and we can’t stop it,” said Cal head coach David Esquer. “So we just tried to make sure we were on the attack during the weekend, and not sit back and have someone give it to us.”
Freshman starting pitcher Jared Horn opened the series looking to carry over a strong start against Washington State from last weekend. He shut down the Cougars by allowing no earned runs off five hits in six innings of pitching.
Horn looked confident on the mound yet again, helped by the fact that he was pitching with a large lead throughout the game. He was able to get help from the Bears’ offense in the top of the first, as freshman Andrew Vaughn continued his offensive assault by hammering a two RBI home run over the left center wall.
That shot made the score 2-0, allowing Horn to breathe a little as he stepped onto the mound in the top of the second. Horn, however, pitched the game as if he never needed the runs. The only run the Sun Devils scored with Horn on the mound came unearned in the top of the third, after a runner advanced to third from first on a poor throw from sophomore catcher Tyrus Greene and a passed ball, before scoring on a groundout. Horn finished his seven innings strong, allowing no earned runs off only three hits. The bullpen allowed five runs in the top of the ninth to end the game with a 9-6 win that looks closer than it ever was.
In game two, the Bears sent sophomore Joey Matulovich to the mound, who carried over Friday’s consistency by cruising through the first five innings. He got plenty of help from the rest of his team’s after they scored six runs in that time.
Still, Matulovich found himself in trouble in the top of the sixth inning, as the Sun Devils refused to quit despite a 6-0 hole. Things only got worse for Matulovich after allowing a homer to sophomore Tyler Williams.
The Sun Devils would score another two runs in the inning before it was all over, but at the end of the day, Cal’s bullpen would secure the series win. The Bears would finish the day with a 6-4 win that clinched the series over the Sun Devils.
Sunday was all about the toughness of junior veteran Matt Ladrech, who pitched four innings against the Cougars the last time he stepped on the mound. Thankfully for him, Cal’s batters got the Bears off to another quick start in the bottom of the first, helping Ladrech in the quest for his second win of the season.
In the bottom of the second, Greene stepped up with a Bear on second, doubling on a ball hit into left field to make the score 3-0. Arizona state responded by making a change at the mound, replacing junior Jake Godfrey with sophomore left hander Connor Higgins.
But the change made no difference to the Bears, who would go on to score again in the bottom of the fifth inning. Cal would produce four runs at the plate to make it a 7-1 ballgame. The biggest hit of the inning came from junior Matt Ruff, who earned two RBI after singling into left center field.
The lead continued to build throughout the day, especially thanks to a two run homer by junior Denis Karas in the bottom of the sixth. This sunk the final nail in the coffin of Arizona State, which would go on to lose in the final game by a final score of 10-2.
For a second straight weekend, the Bears can be proud of sweeping a Pac-12 competitor, but they will face tougher challenges as they now hit the road for five straight games.
Alex Quintana covers baseball. Contact him at