RECAP: Cal freshman Andrew Vaughn hits walk-off grand slam to lift Bears over USC, 13-9

BERKELEY -- Cal freshman first baseman Andrew Vaughn hits a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, to give the Bears a 13-9 victory over USC.

BERKELEY -- The last time California freshman first baseman Andrew Vaughn hit a game-winning home run, it was in Little League. 

"Little League ones don't count, but 201 feet, down the right field line, a wall-scraper," Vaughn said on Friday night, before gesturing to the right field fence at Evans Diamond. "Just like that one."

With the bases full of Bears and two outs in the bottom of the ninth against USC closer Bryce Dyrda, who came into the game with a 1.09 ERA, Vaughn took a big rip on a 2-1 fastball down. He collected himself, and after fouling off the next pitch, sent yet another wall-scraper to right, giving the Bears a 13-9 series-opening win.

"I don't think I'll land for a while," Vaughn said, still floating a few feet above the dirt, eyes wide. "I'll let this one sit for a while, about another two hours. I'll be asleep soon. I'm too tired. I got beat up. Got another one tomorrow. Every kid dreams of that, right there: bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, against a rival, with a very good pitcher on the mound."

Left fielder Max Flower led the inning off with a double to the left center field gap, and was followed by a self-preservation bunt by Preston GrandPre. Dyrda sprung off the mound to field the ball, and his catcher, Kaleb Murphy, yelled for him to go to third. Flower, though, was too fast, and after a pump to first, Dyrda threw to first, too late to catch GrandPre.

Dyrda got a strikeout and a groundout, before walking Jeffrey Mitchell, setting the stage for Vaughn. "I figured they were going to try to nit-pick me, try to make me get myself out, throwing super-simple," said Vaughn, who went 2-for-4 with 7 RBIs. "I had one where I kind of swung out of my shoes a little bit, but I checked myself, and said, 'Just do what you've got to do.'"

Vaughn's tater -- his Pac-12-leading 10th of the year, and his second of the night -- ended a four-hour, nine-minute marathon against the rival Trojans, and the Bears will be back at it again against USC on Saturday at 6:05 p.m., to put a capper on the Cal Day festivities.

Cal looked to have a comeback win against the visiting trojans sewn up after seven innings, with reliever Tanner Dodson humming, and Vaughn having hit a monstrous three-run home run to right center in the bottom of the first, plating two more in the fourth as they buzzed past a three-run first for the Trojans. USC decided to make things interesting, and thanks to an error, a passed ball and two walks, USC plated five runs in the top of the eighth to make it 9-7, visitors' advantage.

Cal third baseman Denis Karas (2-for-5, 2 RBIs) had been swinging out of his shoes for the last two weeks, and in the sixth inning on Friday, he had, popped out with the bases loaded to choke off a rally. Karas, though, didn't miss the eighth offering from Dyrda, hammering a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth onto the top of the Recreational Sports Facility Field House, over the scoreboard in left center field, tying things at 9-9.

"I'm going to go with Denis's ball as the longest ball I've ever seen hit in my life," Vaughn said.

The Bears (17-18, 9-7 in Pac-12) very nearly fell victim to their own miscues, and thanks to five errors and four unearned runs against USC (18-18, 5-8), including a dropped pop-up in the ninth by Cameron Eden that nearly led to a run, and a double-clutched grounder by junior second baseman GrandPre that sparked a five-run eighth.

Cal starter Jared Horn got off to a rough start, allowing four singles and a sacrifice fly in the top of the first, staking the Trojans to a 3-0 lead before the first batch of hot dogs were cooked all the way though, but USC starter Chris Clarke had an even rougher time of things in the bottom of the frame.

Clark walked the first two men he faced on 10 total pitches, bringing up Pac-12 home run leader Vaughn. After a mound conference, and a high first offering to the freshman Cal first baseman, Clark served up Vaughn's ninth of the season -- a titanic shot over the Edwards Track Stadium grandstand and onto the track beyond right center field -- tying things up. 

Dodson, who started in center field, was tied up in knots on a 1-2 offering away, but the breaking pitch from Clarke skipped off the foot of catcher Blake Sabol's foot, and to the third base side of home. As Dodson reached first, Sabol's throw to Lars Nootbaar sailed into foul ground, in front of the Carl J. Van Heuit Training Center. Dodson beat his way to third on the errant throw by Sabol, riding home on an RBI groundout from designated hitter Matt Ruff.

After the 26-pitch first inning, Horn found his center -- and his curveball -- by retiring the next nine in a row.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Greene broke out the lob wedge and flopped a fly ball double just inside the left field line, scoring GrandPre from second. GrandPre had gotten to second on his first steal of the season, and the aggressive base running didn't stop there. Mitchell grounded out to third after Greene reached, but even after third baseman Adalberto Carrillo tried to look Greene back to second, as soon as he released his throw to first, Greene, too, was off to the races, taking third. That proved to be a big 90 feet, as a 2-1 breaker through Sabol's legs with Vaughn at the dish allowed Greene to score, giving the Bears a 6-3 advantage.

Cal wound up needing those insurance runs, as Horn started to lose his control in the top of the sixth. After hitting right fielder Corey Dempster to lead off the frame and then walking Carrillo with two outs, he buried a curve in the dirt to replacement catcher Cris Perez, bringing Dempster -- who advanced to third on a stolen base and a groundout -- home, to narrow the lead to 6-4.

Dodson then came in from center to finish the frame, fanning Perez to strand one. Horn finished the day with 108 pitches in 5.2 innings, striking out four, allowing four hits, walking three and uncorking one wild pitch. Three of the four runs he allowed were earned.

The Bears were on the cusp of scoring even more insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, with two men on and the heart of the Cal lineup stepping to the plate. But, with two outs, after both Eden and catcher Tyrus Greene advanced on a breaker in the dirt by reliever Austin Manning, the Trojans elected to intentionally walk Vaughn. With the bases loaded, Karas popped out to short to end the frame.

In the bottom of the seventh, after a pair of walks and a stolen base, GrandPre greeted reliever Mason Perryman with a one-out safety squeeze. Perryman's first offering sailed up and in, and GrandPre had to use the bat more as a shield than as a cudgel, but still managed to get the bunt down up the ridge of the grass on the first base side, bringing home Anthony Walters.

USC answered in the top of the eighth, finally getting to Dodson after 1.1 hitless innings. Dodson allowed a one-out fly ball single to right by shortstop Frankie Rios, and then a single through the left side from second baseman Brandon Perez. Walters -- in left field for Flower, who moved to center following Dodson's insertion on the mound -- threw short and wide to Eden, who used his glove to flip the ball to Karas at third, hoping to nip Rios. Instead, the flip seemingly surprised Karas, and slipped by him, allowing Rios to score, and Perez to take second.

Since the ball went into the dugout, USC head coach Dan Hubbs argued that Perez should have been awarded third, but the umpiring crew ruled otherwise, saying that Perez had not advanced past first at the time the ball got away from Karas.

Carrillo brought Perez in, anyway, with a 1-0 bouncer up the middle, past a diving Eden, narrowing the Bears' lead to 7-6. After striking out Cris Perez for the second out, Dodson walked freshman pinch hitter Brady Shockey, ending Dodson's night.

In his stead, closer Erik Martinez came on, and after a walk to load the bases, looked to get just what he needed -- a slow grounder to second off the bat of center fielder Matthew Acosta -- but GrandPre at first double clutched, and then threw up the first base line, past a sprawling Vaughn, allowing two runs to score. A wild pitch added another run for USC to make it 9-7, Trojans.

Karas, though, got two runs back with his circuit shot -- his seventh of the year -- and Martinez was able to overcome a one-handed dropped pop-up by Eden in the ninth to shut the Trojans down.

Had Karas not hit that ball, Vaughn said, he would likely have gone to the mound. Top Stories