For the first time since March 30, the California baseball team scored more than six runs, downing host Washington in resounding style on Saturday, riding a five-run sixth and a career-best start by junior righty Trevor Hildenberger to an 8-1 win over the Huskies.
Hildenberger – making just his second career start – threw a career-long seven innings, allowing just four hits and one run with two walks and five strikeouts, retiring the first seven hitters he faced before freshman center fielder Braden Bishop reached on an error in the top of the third. Bishop, though, was promptly caught stealing, and Hildenberger went on to retire seven of the next eight hitters while dueling Washington ace Austin Voth to a standstill.
After a 12-inning marathon on Friday night saw 8.2 innings of one-run ball by freshman Ryan Mason wasted in a 3-2 loss, the Bears (19-23, 8-12 in the Pac-12) broke through in a big way for Hildenberger in the top of the sixth, sending nine men to the plate, with the big blow coming on a bases-clearing double plus an error on a dying quail to right off the bat of junior shortstop Mike Reuvekamp.
Voth surrendered a sharp single up the middle to designated hitter Devon Rodriguez to lead off the top of the sixth, with Rodriguez reaching second on one of two sacrifice bunts on the day by freshman center fielder Devin Pearson.
Pearson got his first start in the five-hole after starting 30 of his previous 32 games as the leadoff man, while Reuvekamp -- in the midst of a six-game hitting streak -- was inserted at the top of the order.
After an intentional walk to Nick Halamandaris put two on with one out, Voth coughed up a first-pitch rocket up the middle to freshman Mitchell Kranson to break a 0-0 tie, bringing Rodriguez home to score.
After right fielder Jacob Wark reached on a misplayed, spinning roller to third baseman Andrew Ely, and a fly ball by Brian Celsi was snared thanks to a diving grab by shortstop Ty Afenir, up stepped Reuvekamp, who was 0-for-3 on the day.
After taking a fastball up and in, a called strike at the letters on the outer half and fouling Voth's third pitch up and out of play down the right field line, the Cal shortstop sent a looping liner right into the teeth of the wind, howling in from right field. Speedy Jayce Ray charged in, but could only trap the ball. With all runners going with a two-strike count and two outs, Reuvekamp cleared the bases, advancing to third when Ray's throw to second got away.
Sophomore second baseman Brenden Farney then laced an RBI single to left to complete the rally.
Though that was Reuvekamp's only knock on the day, it extended his hitting streak to seven games, during which he's gone 12-for-23.
After touching off the rally with his RBI single, Kranson went on to put the final nail in the coffin in the bottom of the ninth.
With side-winding righty reliever Dae Yang Kim on the hill, Farney worked a leadoff walk, then took third on a scorcher up the middle by catcher Andrew Knapp. Kim was then lifted for junior lefty Jacob Coats with Rodriguez at the plate. Coats uncorked a 1-2 wild pitch, allowing Knapp to take second, but a quick glove by catcher Andrew Wiggins prevented Farney from scoring. On the next pitch, Rodriguez lifted a flare to left, deep enough for a sacrifice fly, putting the Bears up, 6-1.
Rodriguez finished the day 2-for-4 with one run and one RBI, while Farney went 2-for-3 with a double.
After an intentional walk to Pearson and a pop out to the right side by Halamandaris, Kranson ripped the second pitch he saw from Coats into right for a two-run single.
Kranson finished the day 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs, more than doubling his season total. Over the past four games, Kranson has gone 5-for-16, with four RBIs and two runs scored.
Senior Justin Jones came out of the bullpen to toss a scoreless eighth, after Hildenberger allowed a leadoff infield single to Afenir, but he needed some help from Pearson to do it.
With the count 1-2, Ray lifted a Jones curve to shallow center, but the speedy Pearson -- who had already made one run-saving diving catch on the afternoon with one out and one run in, in the bottom of the sixth -- came racing in and just managed to get a glove on the ball before it touched down on the outfield grass. Afenir -- frozen halfway between first and second -- took off, but Pearson alertly crawled a few feet and under-handed the ball to Reuvekamp at short for the rare 8-6 fielder's choice. Jones then needed just one pitch to get Ely to ground into a 6-3 double play.
At the dish, Pearson went 2-for-2, and also swiped three bases. He's now 6-for-8 in stolen base attempts on the season to lead the team.
Sophomore righty Keaton Siomkin allowed a one-out double to designated hitter Michael Camporeale in the bottom of the ninth -- the first extra-base hit of the day for Washington (14-27, 6-11) -- before setting down the next two hitters on strikes.
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