Cal baseball drops 2 of 3 to open Mike Neu era

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Dropping two of three games wasn’t the best way to begin Mike Neu’s managerial career, but at the San Diego Tournament last weekend, a short-handed Cal baseball squad provided a sample of its potential excellence.

“We need to play better,” Neu said. “We had a few miscues — base running, defensively and a breakdown in one inning pitching. We just gotta be better and I think we’re capable of doing that.”

Cal kicked off its latest campaign with a 6-1 win on Friday against San Diego but lost its Saturday games to San Diego and Cincinnati by scores of 11-8 and 3-1, respectively.

Sophomore Andrew Vaughn, the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, picked up right where he left off, lighting up opposing pitchers in an electrifying offensive showcase.

Over 14 plate appearances this weekend, Vaughn reached base eight times while recording seven hits and six RBIs.

Most of Vaughn’s production from the weekend came in Cal’s second meeting with San Diego, when the sophomore went 5 for 5, slugging a pair of home runs and driving in five runs.

Vaughn’s monster performance marks the third time in his career that he has hit two home runs in a single game, the other two instances coming against UCLA and USC.

Junior Tyrus Greene had an excellent weekend of his own at the plate, reaching base safely nine times in 14 plate appearances and showing off his speed with a steal.

Like Vaughn, Greene burst onto the scene last season, hitting .317 in 159 plate appearances for the third-highest batting average on the Bears’ team.

A pair of Napa natives starred in the Bears’ lone win of the tournament as sophomore Jared Horn and junior Aaron Shortridge allowed one earned run in a combined nine innings on the mound.

Horn, who returns as Cal’s Friday starter, struck out six over five scoreless innings before handing the ball off to Shortridge, who rung up four batters of his own en route to recording an extended save.

The Bears were in the driver’s seat to, at minimum, take two of three on the weekend as a whole, but ended Saturday with a pair of disappointing losses.

Cal’s offense put the team in an excellent position to complete the sweep over San Diego, generating eight runs on six walks and 12 hits, but the pitching staff had a nightmare of a seventh inning.

The Bears entered the bottom half of the seventh inning with a 6-4 lead, but the bullpen imploded and the Toreros put up a seven spot to pull away.

Sophomore Arman Sabouri and senior Erik Martinez had a pair of outings to forget as their control all but disappeared.

Sabouri, who recorded an out in the bottom of the sixth in relief of starter junior Joey Matulovich, didn’t register an out in the bottom of the seventh, allowing five runs on three hits and two hit batters.

Martinez fared no better, registering only one out while allowing two hits, a walk and hitting a batter.

Senior Andrew Buckley doused the flames with 1.2 innings of scoreless ball, but the damage had been done and a late rally would not be enough to come back.

“Outside of that inning, we pitched pretty well,” Neu said.

In the latter of the two Saturday ball games, Cal’s offense — an offense that scored 14 runs in the two games prior — couldn’t string together its hits and only recorded one run.

“Overall, I think we learned a lot about our team, but we would definitely like to come out of every weekend with a series win,” Neu said.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510