BERKELEY -- As he did earlier in the game with powerful Tanner Dodson, California head coach David Esquer asked his fourth-place hitter, Denis Karas, to bunt in the bottom of the 13th. Four hours and 31 minutes after the first half of the Bears' Saturday doubleheader against Gonzaga started under steel grey skies, Karas fouled his first bunt attempt. He pulled back his second and looked at a curveball called on the outside corner. He took a fastball up and in, and then fouled the next offering from reliever Calvin LeBrun back.
Down 1-2 on two early curveballs, Karas punched a double into the right center field gap on an outside fastball. Freshman Andrew Vaughn -- who played first base the entire game, until he was asked to deliver an inning of relief in the top of the 13th -- had reached on a 2-2 single up the middle to lead off the bottom of the 13th, and was off and running on contact. Esquer waved him around third, and a headfirst belly flop into home sealed the deal, as the Bears completed a comeback win, 8-7.
"I saw him give me the bunt sign, and I should have gotten it down on the first two pitches, but luckily, I was able to put a good swing on the third pitch," Karas said. "I saw him chugging around third, and I was praying he'd get there in time, but he beat it. Luckily, I was able to tail it in the gap a little bit, too, so the outfielders couldn't get to it fast enough to throw him out at home."
"Even with his power, looking at his numbers, he was hitting .220 coming into the game," Esquer said, when asked why he called for the bunt from Karas. "Sometimes, you're just not going well enough to get the green light all the time. He's got to be part of the offense, rather than the offense. When it got to two strikes, I didn't bunt him with two strikes, because there are plenty of times when the guy doesn't get the bunt down, and he comes through, so let's see if it's one of those times."
Vaunted freshman righty Jared Horn couldn't get through three innings in his third collegiate outing, giving up back-to-back three run innings before the Bears' offense woke up against Gonzaga.
"He was up, he was up [in the zone]," Esquer said. "They sat over some pitches, as well. They're an aggressive team, and they made him pay for every mistake. They didn't give him much margin for error, at all, and they got to him."
A botched double play on an would-be inning-ending ground ball by Cameron Eden in the third wound up costing the Bears three runs.
"We had a double play ball at shortstop, three unearned runs, now it's six, and that helped to his demise, as well," Esquer said.
Once Cal's bats did wake up, though, the Bears scored two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth, three in the sixth and one in the ninth to completely erase a 6-0 deficit and send the game to extra innings.
Dodson -- serving as the designated hiiter -- clubbed his first home run of the season -- just over the left field wall off of lefty starter Mac Lardner -- in the bottom of the fifth. He then drove in another two as part of a three-run bottom of the sixth with a two-out single up the middle. As much as Dodson did, however, it was freshman Anthony Walters who provided the biggest blow.
With two men on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Walters froze at a hit-me fastball at the letters for the first strike from closer Wyatt Davis. Then, he bounced the next offering to the right side. Outfielder Jeffrey Mitchell -- who had an RBI single in the fourth, and reached on a single to the left side with one out in the ninth. Mitchell realized that second baseman Justin wasn't even looking at him as he made the sliding stop in the hole. Jacobs looked to throw to first, but knew it would be late, and Mitchell took advantage and came around to score the tying run.
After second baseman Ripken Reyes worked a seven-pitch at-bat from Davis to take a dose on his back foot to load the bases, freshman Max Flower -- who hit a triple and was stranded on third in the bottom of the eighth -- grounded out to short to force extra innings.
Cal closer Erik Martinez walked the bases with two outs in the 10th, including an intentional free pass to Jake Veith, who was at that point 2-for-2 with a two-run home run to dead center field in the second inning (a rarity at Evans Diamond). After throwing just four strikes in his first 17 pitches, though, Martinez came back to get right fielder Daniel Fredrickson swinging.
The Bears got leadoff hitter Jonah Davis on via a ringing single in the bottom of the 10th, but Esquer called for Dodson to bunt, something he has seldom done. The result was a predictable 1-6 force at second, exchanging a faster runner -- Davis -- for a slower one, in Dodson, with no advancement. A pop out to second by Vaughn and a low line-out by Denis Karas ended the frame.
Vieth once again came up with a chance to do damage in the top of the 11th, when Martinez allowed two walks and hit Gunnar Schubert in the left uniform sleeve to load the bases. After going 1-2 to Vieth, Martinez missed badly up and away, but came back with a slider down and in to get the swinging strikeout, stranding the Bulldogs' 18th, 19th and 20th runners of the day.
"He got himself into the jams," Esquer said. "I said it to him: He didn't have much. You've seen Erik in the past, and he can be electric with his stuff, and he was pretty ordinary today, so I give him credit for battling out of those two jams and getting us in the dugout."
Cal rattled out 19 hits, with Davis, Dodson and Karas each going 3-for-7. Davis and Dodson each had two RBIs. Mitchell went 3-for-6 and Greene 3-for-5.
Vaughn earned his first win of the year, with 1.0 inning of perfect work, striking out one and needing just 11 pitches. He went 1-for-7 at the plate, but that single touched off the 13th-inning rally.
"He did, he did, we put him in a tough spot," Esquer said. "He's hit third for us, he's relieved for us, he's played a primary position which is involved in more plays than anybody on the field. I think he's struggled for a little bit, but he's come back and is starting to get more comfortable in the game."
Martinez worked 3.0 no-hit innings, walking five and striking out three, throwing 28 strikes in 61 pitches.
"It was rough, it was rough," Esquer said of Martinez's day.
Cal completed six rain-drenched innings in the nightcap, leading 3-2, but the game was put on pause by the umpiring crew until 11:30 a.m., on Sunday morning. After the conclusion of that game, the Bears and Bulldogs will finish off the series with an afternoon game, to be started by Rogelio Reyes. Starter Joey Matulovich -- who scattered four hits and two hit batters (both on the sleeve) over 6.0 innings, struck out one and walked three on 96 pitches. He will not return to the mound on Sunday to finish the game.
"That's as good as he's been all year, so it was good to see," Esquer said. "We were going to play suspended anyway, and really, what the weather looks like, if we got a break, it could be up until 9:30 [p.m. on Saturday]. Then, it's iffy. Based on, if we're going to sit around and wait, we know, for sure, tomorrow, we can play."