Courtesy / Cal Athletics

RECAP: Cal salvages Horn's first start in second half of doubleheader with Walters-fueled attack

BERKELEY -- Cal freshman Anthony Walters puts the finishing touches on an impressive debut day, going 1-for-2 with a double, an RBI and two walks in Cal's 4-3 win over Cal Poly

BERKELEY -- Before June's MLB Draft, Jared Horn of Napa (Calif.) Vintage was ranked as the No. 32 prospect in the nation. He eschewed the pros to come to Berkeley, and at times on Saturday, he looked the part. Horn sat 91-93 with his fastball, and was able to work out of jams, stranding four Cal Poly runners. It wasn't all roses, though, as the second time through the lineup, Horn made two mistakes in his five innings of work, and both went over the fence.

Fellow freshman Anthony Walters and junior third baseman Denis Karas made sure Horn didn't come out the loser in his collegiate debut, each knocking in runs en route to a 4-3 win in a seesaw back half of the season-opening doubleheader on Saturday. Horn surrendered a second-inning, game-tying solo home run to Mustangs catcher Nick Meyer, and then a two-out, two-run job in the top of the fifth to give Cal Poly a 3-2 lead. Both home runs came on fastballs away. Horn went 5.0 innings, giving up three runs -- all earned -- striking out four and walking three, allowing four hits on 91 pitches.

"Way too many pitches in five innings," said head coach David Esquer. "He throws some pitches that you say, 'Wow,' and sometimes, you see how the hitter reacts to the pitch, and you know that he's throwing hard, but needs to be better, and will be better."

Horn got seven groundouts to four fly-outs, uncharacteristic of his power pitcher profile.

"My mindset was to attack the hitters, and let my defense work," said Horn, who flashed a developing change twice, once getting a groundout. "They played great defense behind me, and it worked out well."

Karas, who went 4-for-5 in the opener, socked a game-tying solo shot to left center in the bottom of the fifth. Then, after a shut-down sixth from Joey Matulovich, Cal pulled ahead. With the bases loaded and one down thanks to a Cameron Eden double and a walk to Walters, sophomore second baseman Ripken Reyes sent a spinning shot to the left side, where freshman shortstop Bradlee Beesley made his third error of the day, muffing the grounder and allowing a run to score.

Reyes got the scoring going in the bottom of the first, also reaching on an error -- a dropped pop fly in right -- and advancing to third on a bunt, then scoring on a cue shot to short by Andrew Vaughn that was also booted by Beesley. 

After Cal Poly tied the game wth the Meyer homer, Walters inched the Bears ahead with his third hit of the day (he went 2-for-4 in the opener), an RBI double, in the bottom of the fourth.

"I was just looking for a pitch, something up," said Walters. "I got it, and put it fair over the third baseman's head, and we got it rolling."

Walters went 3-for-6 at the plate in the two games, with a double, two RBI and two walks, putting his fingerprints all over both games.

"That's one of the reasons he was the frontrunner to start, was because he's probably just a little further along, offensively," said Esquer, who had to make a quick decision on who would sub in at short, after junior starting shortstop Preston GrandPre broke his hand on Wednesday during practice. He is out indefinitely.

Walters, out of Tustin (Calif.), started at short in the opener , and then moved to left to give way to Cameron Eden in the nightcap of the twin bill.

"I thought both those freshmen played pretty solid at shortstop," Esquer said. "I thought Walters played good in the first game, and Eden played well in the second game. We've got to give them both experience. Walters can play some left field, as well, so he can stay in the lineup a number of different ways. I think it's going to be important to get them both experience."

After the Bears squandered a golden chance to extend the lead -- stranding Jonah Davis at second in the bottom of the seventh -- Reyes turned in a sparkling diving stop up the middle on a smash by sophomore center fielder Alex McKenna for he first out in the eighth. Reyes recorded all three outs in the frame, and reached base two out of five plate appearances in the second game of the doubleheader, scoring once, after going 1-for-5 in the opener.

"He wasn't our first pick for leadoff," Esquer said. "Yet, through all of January, he's been the peskiest hitter, just a pain in the rear end, who's hard to get out. Even when he doesn't get a hit, he can foul off three or four pitches. You may get him out, but now you're nine or 10 pitches deep, and that's a good at-bat for us."

Sophomore Joey Matulovich relieved Horn in the sixth and shut down the Mustangs for the next three frames. Matulovich allowed just one base runner (a walk), while striking out one, needing 46 pitches.

Junior Erik Martinez came on in the top of the ninth, and looked rocky to start, allowing back-to-back singles to Meyer and third baseman Michael Sanderson on a fastball off the end of the bat, and a fastball on the inner half, respectively. Then, after a quick talk with sophomore catcher Tyrus Greene, the Stopper of the Year Watch List member struck out the final three batters.

"They were a couple bloopers, and it can't really affect his game," Greene told BearTerritory he said to Martinez on that mound visit. "He always gets guys out, so I told him, 'Those are two little bloopers. Throw your stuff, and get these guys out.'"

Matulovich earned his first win of the season, and Martinez his first save.

The Bears played six of the nine players they signed in November of 2015 during the doubleheader, with seven players making their first collegiate starts on the day.

"Guys are trying to see the speed of the game, and it picks up, it'll get a little cleaner, a little tighter, and more is expected out of you," Esquer said. "Intersquad baseball doesn't give that to you."

The Bears and Mustangs will finish the series at 10:05 a.m., at Evans Diamond. Top Stories