BERKELEY -- Frustration and disrespect: Those were the two main motivators for California on Sunday. A sweep at the hands of UCLA three weeks ago, which ended with a 20-0 whipping, has stuck in the craw of every coach and every player. Pile that on the fact that, twice this weekend against Arizona State, junior Bears cleanup hitter Denis Karas saw the Sun Devils intentionally walk freshman first baseman Andrew Vaughn -- the Pac-12 home run leader -- to get to him, and you have a team leader -- and a team -- with big chips on their shoulder.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1769188-cal-escapes-asu-co... Karas, for his part, went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run and 3 RBIs in Cal's Sunday 10-2 win over Arizona State, and the Bears, as a team, have gone 6-2, with all six wins coming against Pac-12 opponents, with two conference sweeps since that 20-0 loss to the Bruins.
"I definitely didn't want to let them get away with it twice, yesterday," said Karas, who struck out and hit a would-be run-scoring single, but saw that run cut down at the plate, after two intentional walks to Vaughn. "Today, I didn't want to let them get away with it three times. The approach was not to make the situation too big, and just stay within myself, and let it happen."
Since that loss to UCLA, the Bears have outscored opponents 58-32, and outscored conference opponents 53-21.
"It was pretty humbling, for sure, and it re-focused us in practice, and the next day wasn't any easier -- we lost 3-1 to Long Beach, in which we were a bigger part of their offense than they were -- so that wake-up call was there," said head coach David Esquer. "Those games are there for us. We've just got to play better."
Karas's homer came not after an intentional walk to Vaughn, but rather a Vaughn single in the fifth. When Vaughn was given a free pass in the first, Karas poked an RBI single to right center.
As Cal has in the last five conference games, the Bears got off to a quick start, scoring three runs in the first two innings. Unlike their last five conference wins, though, the Bears had to fight themselves with the bat, overcoming three near-missed opportunities at the plate in support of junior Matt Ladrech.
"Calling pitches for him today was so easy, it was like playing a video game," said pitching coach Thomas Eager.
The elder statesman of the Cal rotation, Ladrech was artfully deceptive in his third start back from injury, throwing 6.2 innings and allowing just 1 run on 3 hits, working his curveball to both sides of the plate and setting up his low-80s fastball with the curve and off-speed pitches down, adding apparent speed to his four-seamer by showing his secondary pitches early in counts. Ladrech threw 40 of his first 56 pitches in the strike zone, and finished with 65 strikes on 93 pitches, going well past his prescribed pitch count because of his efficiency. He had four strikeouts, and out of 25 batters faced, got first pitch strikes 19 times.
"It feels good," said Ladrech, who was on a 40-pitch count in his first outing against Long Beach State, then 60 last weekend against Washington State. "Being back out there, week by week, I get a little bit better, it feels a little bit better, and I made a few pitches and got the outcome we got. I don't know [what the pitch count was]. I told Thomas this week, because they have their plan, I said, 'I don't even want to know,' so they don't even tell me. I say, 'Come grab the ball from me when I'm done, and I'll walk off.'"
The Bears (15-14, 7-5 in Pac-12) beat up on the cellar-dwelling Sun Devils (12-18, 2-10) to the tune of 11 hits, the third time this weekend Cal has notched double-digit base knocks, for a total of 36 on the weekend. The Bears also got two homers in the sixth -- a solo shot from shortstop Cameron Eden and a two-run upper-tank job from Karas, his fourth of the season.
Blow by Blow
Things didn't start out nearly as rosy, as Cal had to fight through its own miscues.
After Tyrus Greene led off with a ringing double to left center on a hanging breaker, he was bunted over to third by Jeffrey Mitchell. As Arizona State did at the end of Saturday's game, with first base open, they elected to walk Andrew Vaughn intentionally.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1769379-cal-clinches-serie... On a 1-2 curve to cleanup man Karas, Vaughn looked to bluff to second, but was caught between first and second. Catcher Sam Ferri threw down to hang Vaughn up, and then shortstop Carter Aldrete threw home, cutting down Greene, who broke on the first throw.
With Vaughn at second and two outs, though, Karas ripped a frozen rope over the head of second baseman Taylor Lane for an RBI double. Tanner Dodson -- coming off a 3-for-4 day on Saturday -- lined a 2-2 single to center to bring Karas home, and ended the inning himself by getting hung up between first and second, buying time for Karas to score.
The Bears looked to botch another opportunity in the bottom of the second, when Matt Ruff -- aboard via a line-drive single, and moved to third via a groundout and a single to right by Ripken Reyes -- was cut down at the plate on a suicide squeeze attempt from Eden. Cal still managed to score a run out of the affair, thanks to a fly ball double into the left field corner by Greene to score Reyes.
After seeing two balls rocket over his outstretched glove, Lane finally made the elusive leaping stab, snaring a Mitchell liner at the top of his jump to end the frame and save two runs.
Ladrech got out of a jam in the top of the third, with two titanic drives curving foul at the last moment with two men on. Ladrech finally got a looping liner to right by Lyle Lin and a weak pop out to first by Lane to strand a pair.
Ladrech worked a clean fourth, and looked to be on his way to a clean fifth, but instead gave up a first-pitch, two-out solo home run to right by Gage Canning, the first home run of the season for the Sun Devils' sophomore right fielder.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1769596-highlights-cal-fin...Cal got that run back and then some in the fifth. With two on and one out, Karas sent a hard grounder to the hole at short, where Aldrete -- son of former Golden Bear outfielder Rich Aldrete -- made a diving stop. He couldn't get the ball out of his glove, though, allowing Karas to reach, loading the bases. After it looked like the Bears would squander another opportunity -- with hot-hitting Dodson staring at a 3-1 fastball down the middle -- but Dodson then looked at ball four low and away, walking a run in. Ruff came up and bounced a two-run single over drawn-in Jeremy McCuin at third, and Max Flower drove home another with a sacrifice fly to center.
After making a pirouetting play behind the second base bag for the first out in the top of the third, Eden came up big with the stick in the bottom of the sixth, making it 8-1 in favor of the Bears with his third home run of the season, off of the RSF in left field. Two batters later, Karas deposited the fifth pitch he saw onto the roof of the RSF.
"It was 3-1, I was seeing his fastball pretty good, and I sat on it, he threw something over the plate, and I was on time for it," Karas said.