In contrast to Friday’s 19-run, 29-hit, four-home run extravaganza between California and Pepperdine, Saturday’s affair was considerably more subdued. Bears freshman Jared Horn and 6-foot-5 junior Waves ace Max Gamboa combined to strike out 21 hitters.
Cal was just a bit better, though, backing freshman Jared Horn’s finest outing of his nascent career with six hits, including a home run by first baseman Andrew Vaughn, for a 3-2 win over the Waves.
Horn – who hadn’t gotten out of the sixth inning this year, had thrown more than 90 pitches in two of his three outings, and threw 70 in a 2.1-inning start against Gonzaga – went 6.2 innings with a career-high 8 strikeouts on 99 pitches, unofficially, walking two and allowing 5 hits and 2 runs.
"Today, my fastball was down in the zone, and I was able to pitch in and up when I needed to, so that definitely helped me a lot," said Horn, who lived up in the zone in his last outing, against the Bulldogs.
The Waves struck first in the bottom of the third on an RBI double by Quincy McAfee to cash in a leadoff single by second baseman Chase Lambert, The second run he allowed came after he surrendered back-to-back two-out singles in the seventh, and was pulled for closer Erik Martinez. Martinez allowed a soft double to left center off the bat of pinch hitter Jake Kanfer, but he fanned Joe Capris to end the frame.
Martinez got stronger over his 2.2 innings of work, retiring the heart of the Waves' order in the bottom of the ninth, striking out Ben Rodriguez on two high cutters and a slider away, and fifth-place hitter Brandon Caruso (hitting .324) on a big breaker away. In between, Martinez got help from center fielder Jonah Davis, who tracked down a 2-2 drive off the bat of cleanup hitter Jordan Qsar in the right field gap, colliding with the outfield wall at full gallop to make the catch.
Horn out-dueled hard-luck loser and Pepperdine ace Max Gamboa, who struck out 13 and walked two in 8.2 innings, and scattered six hits.
Things got rocky along the Malibu coast for Gamboa in the top of the fifth. Cal catcher Tyrus Greene struck out on a 1-2 breaker down and in, but the ball kicked in the dirt at Greene's feet, and rolled to the backstop, allowing Greene to reach first. A passed ball on Max Flower's two-strike bunt attempt put Greene at second. Up stepped freshman Anthony Walters, who looked to bring home the tying run, but instead, as Walters came up with a drive to right, Greene was cut down at the plate by a strong throw from Qsar in right for the second out.
Freshman shortstop Cameron Eden lined an 0-1 curveball into right, bringing Walters around to score, taking second on the throw. Eden then rode home on an RBI single by Davis -- who homered as part of a five-run fifth for the Bears on Friday -- to give Cal the 2-1 lead.
Horn turned in a shut-down inning -- exactly what Cal needed -- retiring the side in order, with two strikeouts (both looking at curveballs) in the bottom of the fifth on 14 pitches.
"I just let my defense work early, had fastball command, and then the curveball developed in the later innings, which really helped," Horn said.
That inning the stage for what turned out to be a much-needed insurance run in the top of the sixth.
Having already singled in the first to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, Vaughn tagged a 1-0 offering from Gamboa just over the left field fence for his third home run of the season, giving the Bears what would prove to be a crucial insurance run.
The Bears and Waves square off again on Sunday at 1 p.m., in the series finale at Eddy D. Field Stadium, in Malibu, Calif., with Cal freshman Rogelio Reyes (1-1, 5.59 ERA) going against Pepperdine righty Wil Jensen (1-1, 4.32).