Andrew Vaughn propels Cal baseball in comeback series win

A batter prepared to hit the ball with his bat.
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It was as if the baseball gods looked kindly upon Cal baseball’s 2019 home opener when rain clouds opened up temporarily Thursday, making for a chilly but dry evening on Evans Diamond. Although the change in weather did not translate to a hot start on this night, the Bears would rebound with tenacity in two blowout wins to take the series against Saint Mary’s.

But Cal’s success on the field had less to do with the Bay Area’s seasonably dreary weather and much more to do with the Bears’ most feared offensive force, junior Andrew Vaughn. So far this season, Vaughn has put up Mike Trout-like numbers, raising his season averages to .528/.680/1.176 with 18 RBIs and seven homers. Against Saint Mary’s, the Cal first baseman reached base eight times in 14 plate appearances, including four home runs, five runs scored and nine RBIs in the two wins.


Game one

The season opener did not go the way Cal expected. Shaky pitching and sloppy defending allowed Saint Mary’s to gradually chip away at the Bears’ chances of a win, while the offense’s inability to put runners on base resulted in an anemic performance.

The Bears were already down 2-0 in the bottom of the third when their collective frustration boiled over. The home plate umpire claimed Vaughn leaned into a pitch that bounced off his left arm and called a strike instead of a walk. Vaughn looked displeased with the call, and when head coach Mike Neu left the dugout to argue, the skipper was ejected from the game.

While this frustration seemed to result from the Bears’ own shortcomings on both sides, Saint Mary’s freshman starter Tyler Thornton pitched a gem to quell Cal’s potent offense, allowing only two runs on four hits through seven innings.

The Gaels continually added to their lead in the fourth, sixth and eighth innings to complete the 10-3 win.


Game two

In their first home victory of 2019, the Bears rode their pitching staff to a 13-1 blowout. Junior Arman Sabouri opened Friday’s matchup with two quick no-hit innings that set the tone for the remainder of Cal’s young staff.

Freshman Sam Stoutenborough took the mound in the third and stifled the Gaels’ opportunity to take a commanding lead in the series, allowing only one run on five hits before exiting after the seventh.

Offensively, Vaughn led the Bears in a home run barrage through the first five innings. After a quiet game one, Vaughn lined a two-run homer to left field in his first at-bat, scoring junior Cameron Eden for an early 2-0 lead.

In the fourth, however, the Bears broke the game open with an eight-run inning. Redshirt sophomore Brandon McIlwain and Eden each contributed two-run home runs in the inning, and a series of timely hits with runners on base put the Bears on top 10-0.


Game three

With Saturday’s game postponed because of inclement weather, both teams faced a deciding match Sunday in Moraga. After falling behind 2-0, the Cal offense exploded for seven runs in the third, batting around the order in one inning for the second time in as many games.

The Bears took a 5-2 lead on Vaughn’s first grand slam of the season, and two batters later, junior Max Flower added a solo shot of his own to the box score.

In the very next inning, Vaughn laced yet another home run to left field — his fourth in two games — securing a six-run lead that the Gaels could not overcome in subsequent innings. With a 9-3 win, the Bears took the series and earned their fifth win in six games.


Looking ahead, Cal baseball could not have assumed this form at a better time, as the team will take on a perennial baseball powerhouse in No. 13 LSU on the road this weekend.

Max Mennemeier covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].