RECAP: Cal clinches series win over Washington State behind strong outing from Joey Matulovich

BERKELEY -- Cal uses a six-run seventh to secure a series win over Washington State, behind a strong effort from sophomore righty Joey Matulovich.

BERKELEY -- After a 12-2 slopfest on Friday night between California and Washington State, Saturday's affair between the two Pac-12 foes was for the more old-fashioned sensibilities, a true pitcher's duel, at least, until the Bears used a six-run seventh to break things open, and clinch the series with a 7-2 win over the Cougars.

Deliberate Washington State starter Ryan Walker found his devastating slider and kept Cal hitters off balance for 6.0 innings, while quick-working Bears sophomore Joey Matulovich dazzled with seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings of his own. 

Instead of either of those two deciding the game, though, it was reliever Joe Rosenstein -- a 6-foot-7 junior righty -- who wound up giving up the ghost for the Cougars. In the bottom of the seventh, ahead 2-1, Walker walked pinch hitter Conner Bock and hit Cameron Eden to lead off the frame. Rosenstein then came on and promptly hit pinch hitter Austen Swift, allowed a game-tying chopper up the middle to Jeffrey Mitchell and wild pitched the go-ahead run home. It was the second time in two nights that a squeaker by Mitchell keyed a big inning, with the chopper coming after a three-pitch strikeout in the fifth, where he looked just plain overmatched against Walker. Before that knock, Mitchell was 0-for-3.

"We're trying to urge our guys, because they don't always to that -- they're young enough where they peak and valley as the offense goes, and some of our field players are victims of doing that -- so for him to hang with it and get a base hit was a big deal," said head coach David Esquer.

Cal (11-13, 3-5 in Pac-12) sent 10 men to the plate in in the seventh, all told, with Tanner Dodson skulling the second pitch he saw from reliever Trenton Dupre inside the third base line for a two-run double. A Jonah Davis sacrifice fly brought home another run, and a low liner to center by freshman left fielder Max Flower snuck under the glove of junior Dugan Shirer for an RBI double.

"I thought Mitchell may have had his worst at-bat of the year, on the three-swing strikeout [in the fifth], and he still scratches out two hits on his next two at-bats," Esquer said.

Other than a two-run fifth, Matulovich was back in form. After allowing just 4 earned runs in 23.0 innings of work over a three-week stretch, the Bears sophomore hit a bump in the road last weekend at UCLA, falling victim to the beginnings of a 9-4 comeback win by the Bruins, throwing 93 pitches in just 5.0 innings and allowing 3 earned runs in Los Angeles.

On Saturday, back in the friendly confines of Evans Diamond, Matulovich worked on both sides of the plate with all three of his pitches, spotting his fastball at the knees and setting hitters up with pitch sequences two and sometimes three batters before. His change up to left-handed hitters was particularly sharp.

"Honestly, my change up felt really good," Matulovich said. "The last two starts, my slider was my better pitch, but today, I was really feeling my change up, and I got three or four of my strikeouts on my change up."

Matulovich's final line on Saturday: 2 earned runs in 6.1 innings, 7 hits allowed, one walk and seven strikeouts on 96 pitches.

"With us not being very offensive for him, he was trying to pitch perfect, and that's hard to do, and they're real aggressive," Esquer said. "You can't make a lot of mistakes to them, and we just didn't give him a chance to take a breath and pitch really, really aggressive. I thought he was trying to pitch a little careful, trying to keep it at zero. He battled well, and I thought he threw some really nice pitches."

Matulovich said that he noticed the Cougars (14-10, 1-4) were more aggressive early in counts on Saturday, after the 12-2 drubbing on Friday. After just singles over the first four innings, the Cougars got a leadoff pop fly single to right in the top of the fifth by first baseman James Rudkin, and then a booming double to left center by designated hitter Blake Clanton, who, despite a .217 batting average, can and did put a charge into mistakes. Clanton drove in Rudkin, and then rode home himself on a looped double over the third base bag by sophomore shortstop Andres Alvarez. Matulovich, though, fanned Shirer for his sixth K of the day and then got the second line-out of the day speared by first baseman Andrew Vaughn. Vaughn has snatched three line drives out of the air in the last two nights, with one starting a double play on Friday.

"I made some good pitches, but they hit them, and props to them for that," Matulovich said. "Got to take my hat off to that."

The Bears mounted a brief two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth, with a golfed line-drive single to left by Eden (his second hit of the day) and a line drive at second baseman Dillon Plew by Cal catcher Tyrus Greene. The ball was initially caught by Plew, but it popped out of his mitt as he drifted to his right, and fell to the ground. Walker, though, used his signature out pitch -- a sweeping slider -- to fan Mitchell and end the inning.

Cal broke through in the bottom of the sixth, with a leadoff infield single by Vaughn on a chopper to third, and a one-out walk to Dodson. A fastball through the legs of catcher Cody Meyer put two men in scoring position for Davis. The powerful Davis -- who has just one home run on the year -- was able to manage a grounder up the first base line, backhanded by Rudkin, who tagged the bag as Vaughn scored, cutting the lead to 2-1.

That rally, though, died as Flower popped a late drag bunt foul, where it was caught by Meyer to end the threat."I didn't think Max looked very comfortable the whole day," Esquer said. "I wanted to give him one swing against that guy, and he didn't look so comfortable, so we thought we'd take a chance. We've just got to offense a little bit, and sometimes, it comes from the smallest place. He later got a base hit, and did a nice job scratching out a hit."

Matulovich allowed a ringing single to left center by Rudkin in the top of the seventh, but Davis bailed him out with a strong throw to second, cutting down the Cougars first baseman as he tried to stretch a single into a double. The wear was showing, though, as Matulovich allowed a one-out walk to Clanton and then a line-drive single past a diving Denis Karas to sophomore left fielder Justin Harrer. Matulovich was lifted for lefty reliever Zayne Patino, who got a foul pop and a dribbler off the hands of Shirer to first to keep Washington State within striking distance, and strike the Bears did.

With two walks and a hit batsman loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh, Mitchell sent a 2-1 chopper over the outstretched glove of the leaping Rosenstein, and behind the mound for an infield single, tying the game at 2-2. A 2-0 fastball low and away to Karas kicked off of Meyer's leg and to the backstop, bringing Eden home to break the tie.

Walker was the hard-luck loser, allowing five hits and two earned runs, with three walks and three strikeouts on 89 pitches, with 20 first-pitch strikes on 27 hitters.


Junior shortstop Preston GrandPre pinch ran for Eden in the seventh, his first action of the season, after breaking his right hand on the final weekend before the start of the season.

"He's able to run, probably cleared to throw by next week," said Esquer. "The swing is the one that's going to be the big thing."

In GrandPre's stead, the two freshmen to play shortstop -- Eden and Anthony Walters -- have hit a combined .254 (35-for-138), with Eden hitting .303, with 2 home runs and 8 RBIs.

"We're going to take it slow, but he's been there, and he's played both positions in the middle for us, so he can help us at either spot," Esquer said. "It gives us a good option, for whatever spot needs a little help." Top Stories