Cal Athletics

RECAP: UCLA mounts late-inning rally for second straight comeback win over Cal

LOS ANGELES -- Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn took over the Pac-12 home run lead, but UCLA once again mounts a late-inning comeback win.

LOS ANGELES -- It was deja vu all over again for California on Saturday, as for the second night in a row, the Bears gave up early 4-0 leads and wilted in the face of late-inning UCLA rallies. The Bruins chased sophomore Cal starter Joey Matulovich after 5.0 innings, and punished freshman reliever Rogelio Reyes, in a very literal sense: The hit that keyed a three-run seventh against Reyes was a line-drive shot off the side of his glove, as he raised it to protect his head, by designated hitter Kyle Cuellar.

The Bruins rode that inning to a 9-4 series-clinching win, saddling Reyes with his second collegiate loss and negating two towering home runs by Cal first basemen Andrew Vaughn.

"Two four-run leads that we squander, or just kind of sit on, a little bit, we've got to be more constant, offensively," said head coach David Esquer. "We just can't score four and then shut it down ... You can't hope that one guy will show up, and then the pitcher holds them, and the game will be over. That almost never happens. We're not there yet. We need multiple people to show up. We need to gang tackle and swarm the ball a little bit, with production, and we're just not there. We're dangerous, just like UCLA is dangerous. Two very similar teams, and two very similar offenses, but they're pitching a little bit better than we are."

UCLA scored in five straight innings, from the fourth through the eighth, with nine unanswered runs.

"Letting them back in, two days in a row, that's a tough go," Esquer said. 

Vaughn and Bruins first baseman Sean Bouchard were tied for the Pac-12 home run lead, with five apiece heading into play on Saturday, but Vaughn put some daylight between them, socking two, two-run home runs in the first and third inning to give Cal (9-11, 1-4 in Pac-12) the early lead. That was about all the offense the Bears could muster, though, as they went 0-for-9 with two outs, and tallied just three leadoff men on, and two leadoff hits. None scored. The Bruins (9-11, 3-2), on the other hand, got five leadoff men on, with three of them scoring.

Freshman right fielder Michael Toglia came into the game hitting just .192, but led the charge by going 2-for-2 with three RBIs, a double, a triple and a run scored.

Daniel Amaral, hitting .257 entering play, went 3-for-4 with a run in the two-hole, as UCLA rattled out 11 hits on the night against four Cal pitchers.

Vaughn -- who went 3-for-3 -- slammed the opening salvo halfway up the batter's eye beyond the left center field wall in the top of the first, bringing home Jeffrey Mitchell, who reached on a bobbled grounder by third baseman Ryan Kreidler.

His second circuit shot came two innings later, when Mitchell once again reached with one out -- this time a clean single -- rode home on a wall-scraper over the 370-foot sign in left field.

Matulovich wasn't nearly as crisp as his previous three outings, allowing five baserunners over his first three innings of work, but wriggling out of two-on, no-out jams twice.

Matulovich -- who had allowed just 4 earned runs in his last 23.0 innings -- wasn't able to avoid damage in the bottom of the fourth, though, allowing a bouncer over the mound and into center by designated hitter Kyle Cuellar, a ripped single to left by Nick Valaika and an RBI single to right Toglia. All came with two strikes.

After striking out second baseman Chase Strumpf, Matulovich allowed a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 4-2, before retiring freshman catcher Will McInerny -- brother of former Cal infielder Robbie, and son of former Bears outfielder Dan -- on strikes to end the frame. 

Bouchard may not have gone yard, but he did help the Bruins inch closer in the bottom of the fifth, taking advantage of a wild pitch by Matulovich to send a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Grant Stephens -- who led off the frame by taking a 1-2 pitch to the foot -- to cut the lead to 4-3.

Matulovich fanned 4, and got 14 first-pitch strikes on 22 batters, but labored, throwing 93 pitches in 5.0 innings, failing to get into the sixth for the first time in his last four starts.

Reyes -- slated to be Monday's starter against Long Beach State -- was pressed into service early, taking over in the bottom of the sixth, and couldn't quite dial in his big breaking ball.

"Not at all," Esquer said. "Just not enough veteran presence, really. We really looked our age a little bit on the mound, and just offensively, letting them stem the tide and not keep going at them, we didn't do a good job of that."

Despite fanning two in the bottom of the seventh, Reyes allowed a walk, then a hit-and-run single served into center by Kreidler, and then uncorked a wild pitch to pinch hitter Jack Stronach, bringing home Toglia.

"The youth on our team on the mound side is giving up those free bases. I don't think we've thrown the ball comfortably on the mound all weekend," Esquer said. "A little bit is the feeling of, 'Hey, we're up four,' and hoping that the pitchers can just run with it a little bit, that's a little bit of a young attitude."

Things didn't get much better for Reyes. With one out and Daniel Amaral having stolen his way around to third in the bottom of the seventh, Reyes took a line shot off of his glove -- raised to protect his face -- off the bat of Cuellar. The ball ricocheted into left, through a drawn-in infield, bringing Amaral home to break the 4-4 tie.

"I think he was more upset about leaving that pitch over the middle," Esquer said. "That was the go-ahead run, a big pitch, and he was more upset that he gave up that hit [than he was rattled by the liner]."

Having used three relievers on Friday night, Reyes was left to fend for himself against .209-hitting Toglia. The freshman out of Gig Harbor, Wash., roped a payoff pitch from Reyes inside the first base line and into the right field corner, clearing the bases and giving UCLA a 7-4 advantage.

"He has a little more attack, and sometimes our pitchers have been very count-predictable, and we backed ourselves into corners, and weren't going to much cross-counting or off-speed," Esquer said. "It was just lack of having the pitch. I thought Reyes gave us a little bit more options, with the change and the slider-curveball mix, but they did a good job. They came up with some clutch hits -- a triple down the line -- and the kid's hitting, what, .170? They've gotten some production from low batting averages."

Reliever Ian Lutz walked senior Brett Stephens with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and then took his turn being battered by Amaral, who threw the bat head out over the outer half of the plate on a 2-2 offering with Stephens off and running, punching a single just inside the first base bag and moving Stephens to third. Once again, Bouchard dutifully obliged with a sacrifice fly, before Cuellar ripped an RBI single to right to give the Bruins a 9-4 lead.

The Bears and Bruins finish the series on Sunday at 2:05 p.m., with Tanner Dodson (1-4, 4.67 ERA) facing off with UCLA righty Jon Olsen (0-1, 5.50).

Since Reyes will no longer be available on Monday against Long Beach State, the Bears will likely go with a staff day, throwing five or six arms, including injured junior lefty Matt Ladrech, who's slated to throw one inning. He's not quite ready to re-enter the weekend rotation, but when he does, Esquer said, Cal may move some of its power arms -- Jared Horn or Dodson -- into the bullpen in order to get some end-of-game firepower. Top Stories