SCHEDULE UPDATE: Instead of playing a 3 p.m. game against UNC Wilmington and a 7 p.m. game against San Diego on Sunday, California will play one, 7 p.m., game against the Seahawks, and will face the Toreros for a non-tournament game on Monday before heading home to face Stanford on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Evans Diamond.
Saturday's kickoff of the University of San Diego Tournament was full of surprises for the California baseball team. For the first time this season, freshman righty Daulton Jefferies gave up -- gasp -- an earned run. For the first time this season, Jefferies failed to last through the sixth inning. But, in a season where the Bears have averaged just under four runs per game, all of the sudden, they've scored 16 in their past two, including Saturday's 8-5 win over Baylor (5-3), keyed by a 2-for-5, five-RBI day from redshirt junior Derek Campbell, who clubbed his third career home run and drove in two with his fourth double of the season.
"It proved that we can win a few different ways," said head coach David Esquer. "We've kind of been riding Daulton and him giving up no runs."
Esquer said after the season-opening Texas series – in which Campbell went 5-for-16 with three doubles – that he wanted to see more consistency out of Campbell before he would deem him a viable Pac-12 No. 3 hitter, but Campbell did plenty in the four-slot on Saturday with his career-best five runs driven in.
"He had a game," Esquer said. "He still has to do it consistently, and time will tell, but we needed his offense today. He did a good job against a good team and a good pitcher."
After Jefferies wriggled off the hook in the top of the third – allowing a double, a walk, a fielder's choice and a one-out single to load the bases before fanning left fielder Darryn Sheppard and getting Grayson Porter to ground into an inning-ending fielder's choice to Chris Paul at third – the Bears struck for four runs in the bottom of the frame.
It was Baylor's old nemesis – fifth-year senior Devon Rodriguez -- who came up big first, punching an RBI single up the middle with two outs to break the scoreless tie. Then, Campbell stepped up with two men on and sent a drive over Fowler Field's left field wall.
Baylor answered right back, as first baseman Mitch Price yanked a leadoff solo home run to left to end Jefferies' scoreless innings streak at 16. Jefferies allowed a double, a single and an RBI groundout before catcher Brett Doe reached on a rare Mike Reuvekamp error, allowing one more run to come in, and Doe to take second on the throw. After getting one more out, Jefferies hit shortstop Lawton Langford with a pitch to put two men on for third-place hitter Sheppard, who came in hitting .346 on the year.
Esquer lifted Jefferies in favor of reliever Dylan Nelson, but Nelson promptly gave up a two-run double to left center and closing the book on Jefferies, who finished with 3.2 innings pitched, 5 runs – two earned – on six hits and one walk with a season-low one strikeout.
"He gave us almost four innings, in what we thought would be a five-inning game," Esquer said. "We didn't know the weather would hold off, but when he got into a little trouble, we went into our pen to try and stabilize and hold it down. Typically, we would go with him a lot further."
Nelson got the final out of the inning to stop the bleeding, and tossed two more scoreless innings, allowing the Bears the chance to punch back, and punch back, they did, punching Nelson all the way to his first win of the season.
Paul led off the bottom of the sixth by reaching first on an error by Langford at short, and moved to third on a one-out double down the right field line by Reuvekamp, who finished the day 1-for-2 with two runs, one double and two hit-by-pitches in the nine hole.
Baylor lefty reliever Doug Ashby then hit Devin Pearson to load the bases before fanning senior left fielder Vince Bruno. Once again, enter: Rodriguez.
The lefty slugger worked an eight-pitch, bases-loaded walk from the sidewinding Ashby in perhaps his best at-bat of the season, tying the game at five as Paul came home to score.
"Oh, well, that was huge, a really mature at-bat," Esquer said. "It was against a left-handed side-armer with the bases loaded, and he draws a walk, I mean, that's why he's our senior leader, and it was obviously the biggest at-bat of the game. It pulled us even. Early on, we didn't know whether the rain would hold off, so we were kind of playing with a moving deadline, depending on when they'd stop it or not."
Once again, it was Campbell's time to shine, as he doubled to right center to bring home Pearson and Reuvekamp and pull Cal ahead, 7-5.
Two more scoreless innings from sophomore righty Ryan Mason and a perfect ninth from Trevor Hildenberger for his second save of the year finished things off for the Bears, who will next face UNC Wilmington at 3 p.m. on Sunday, followed by a 7 p.m. tilt against host San Diego, weather permitting. Cal then finishes off its road trip with a single game against the Toreros on Monday at 3 p.m. at Fowler Field.
"You know, in the past, we may have let Mason just run out there and finish, if he could, but we don't have to do that, and we can kind of plan for the weekend, because tomorrow, it could very easily be the opposite," Esquer said. "It could be Hildenberger for two and Mason finish for one."
Instead of this weekend's original rotation, which would have seen senior lefty Kyle Porter take the mound against Wilmington, Esquer has elected to start freshman right Alex Schick against the Seahawks, with Porter going in the nightcap against San Diego. The Toreros downed Wilmington, 5-2, on Feb. 27, but were idle on Friday and Saturday.
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