Backed by stellar pitching and an unwavering defense, Cal baseball took two of three from Washington to win its fourth straight series against a conference opponent.
The Bears (23-14, 9-9) held the Huskies (18-17, 9-6) to just 10 runs over three games, the second-lowest total in a weekend series this season.
Cal’s fielders bounced back from a shaky performance Tuesday, recording zero errors after committing two in the midweek affair against Santa Clara.
“We have a lot of pitchers that are going to get the ball on the ground — that are gonna put ball in play. The way our infield defense played was unbelievable,” said Cal head coach Mike Neu. “I don’t think I could be more happy with that.”
Cal bats provided plenty of support in an 11-4 win in game one while sophomore Jared Horn outdueled Washington junior Joe DeMers for a 5-2 victory in game two.
The series ended on a sour note as the Huskies stormed back in the late innings to overcome an immaculate start from Bears’ junior Aaron Shortridge, who carried a perfecto into the sixth and a no-no into the seventh.
“To win the series, that’s the goal going in, and we accomplished that. So we’ve got to move forward and keep working,” Neu said.
Star sophomore Andrew Vaughn carried a big offensive load, going 7 for 12 with 2 homers and 6 RBI.
A four-run first inning jumpstarted Cal’s conference-leading offense and provided a lead it would not relinquish. The Bears set the tone right off the bat against Huskies redshirt freshman starter Lucas Knowles’ first pitch, as junior Tyrus Greene went yard.
The Huskies pulled to within one in the fourth with three runs, but Bears senior starter Matt Ladrech escaped further damage with a key strikeout to end the inning. Ladrech would pitch 4.1 innings, giving up three earned runs and striking out three.
The bullpen took it from there as Cal relievers continued their string of quality appearances, combining to pitch 4.2 innings of one-run ball. Senior Zayne Patino (3-1) recorded eight outs and picked up his third win of the season.
A run in the fourth and three more in the fifth opened the game up, while insurance runs in the seventh and eighth put the game out of reach.
It was a battle of the starters in the middle game. Horn (5-4) did not shy away from a matchup with Huskies star DeMers (3-2), who owns the fourth-lowest ERA in the conference.
Both pitchers went seven strong, but the Cal sophomore triumphed by surrendering only two earned runs, both of which came in the first.
After Vaughn put the Bears on the board in the first with an RBI single, he delivered the game winning blow with his 18th longball of the year in the third — a two-run shot to give Cal a 3-2 lead.
Two-way junior Tanner Dodson gave himself some breathing room with a two-run single in the seventh, before pitching two scoreless innings for his ninth save of the year.
Shortridge continued his string of superb starts in the series finale, retiring the first 16 batters he faced and carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning before hitting freshman Braiden Ward.
After losing the no-hitter in the seventh, Shortridge began to unfold a bit and loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth, but he limited the damage by inducing a clutch 6-4-3 inning-ending double play to only allow one run.
Dodson was brought in for the save after sophomore Arman Sabouri gave up a leadoff walk in the ninth. Washington senior Joe Wainhouse greeted him rudely, launching the Cal closer’s first pitch off the scoreboard for a game-tying two-run blast.
A Huskies rally off junior Joey Matulovich (1-1) in the 10th proved to be the difference as Washington would take a one-run lead. The Bears were able to get two runners on in both the ninth and the tenth, but they could not cash in.
Washington redshirt freshman Josh Burgmann (1-1) picked up the win with five shutout frames in relief.
“We battled. I thought our guys really played hard and left it on the field,” Neu said.