California came in to this weekend's series against No. 1 Oregon State hitting .293 against left-handed pitching, but if the Bears had any thoughts that that fact would lead them to unseat lefty Luke Heimlich from his lofty perch atop the Pac-12's ERA leaders, they had another thing coming. 12 strikeouts to be exact, a career-high for Heimlich.
The Beavers (36-4, 19-3 in Pac-12) averaged 5.3 runs per game heading into Friday night's series opener, only needed one, but got seven more in the 8-0 win, relentlessly nickel-and-diming starter Jared Horn to the tune of 6 earned runs on 9 hits in 2.2 innings by the freshman righty.
While the top of the Cal lineup did its job -- going 6-for-12 -- the heart of the order went 1-for-11. In fact, the entire lineup, outside of the top three hitters, went 1-for-20.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1775704-cal-vs-oregon-stat... Heimlich had shown earlier this season that he was reticent to use his change up against right-handed hitters, at least not as his first secondary pitch behind his fastball. He threw, at most, 8 change ups against UCLA. Against the Bears, he threw at least 10, by unofficial count.
"Coming into this week, we knew that they were a right-handed-heavy lineup," Heimlich said. "I knew that I was going to have to have my change up. It was a pitch that I hadn't really had in my last couple outings. Coming into this week, we put a big emphasis working on that on my flat-grounds and my bullpen. I came out here and it was better than it's been in a couple months. It was good to have."
Heimlich went 8.0 innings, walking one, and striking out the 3-6 hitters in the Cal lineup 9 times. Freshman first baseman Andrew Vaughn stretched his streak of games reaching base safely to 22 with a fourth-inning single, but the man behind him in the order Denis Karas, went 0-for-4, allowing Heimlich to work to Vaughn with ease. After Vaughn lined a fastball away into right in the top of the fourth, Karas was frozen on a breaker on the outside corner to end the inning.
The Beavers staked Heimlich to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, as sophomore Nick Madrigal started off a four-hit barrage with a single up the middle, the first of three knocks through the box on the day for the NorCal native. A double by left fielder Steven Kwan that one-hopped the wall put men on second and third, and a bouncer over the mound by Jack Anderson plated Madrigal. A first-pitch single to left by designated hitter Trevor Larnach brought Kwan home.
Horn -- who struggled with fastball command in the first -- found that command in the second, and began to throw his curveball both for strikes, and as a swing-and-miss pitch off of his low-to-mid-90s heat, striking out two, but he still threw 21 pitches.
Oregon State sent 10 men to the plate in the bottom of the third, scoring 4 runs -- 3 with two outs. After allowing an RBI single by third baseman Michael Gretler, he got a first-pitch fly out, but with catcher Adley Rutschman at the dish, Horn broke off a curveball in front of the plate, kicking off the mask of catcher Korey Lee and all the way to the backstop, allowing putting two runners in scoring position. Rutschman took a fastball up and sent a hard shot inside the bag at third to score a pair, and after a walk on another breaking ball that got away, Horn gave up a bouncer up the middle to Madrigal to bring home another, to make it 6-0.
Sophomore righty Aaron Shortridge threw 3.1 innings of relief, allowing 2 runs (both earned) on 3 hits, but he did strike out three, showing a much-improved change up, though his fastball still needs to add velocity to be a pitch off of which he can throw the change. In just his third outing since coming off of a seven-week layoff with arm tenderness, Shortridge was as confident as he's looked in the last two years particularly with his secondary pitches.
Still, Shortridge allowed a two-out rally in the fifth, when he pulled a 3-2 change up down and away to the backstop, allowing Anderson -- aboard with a single, and having taken second on an earlier wild pitch -- to take third.
After Shortridge got ahead of Rutschman 0-1, he tried to pull a third-to-first pickoff move, but Christian Donahue -- who walked on Shortridge's second wild pitch -- took off. Instead of looking over his shoulder to make sure Anderson wasn't going, Shortridge kept his attention on Donahue, allowing Rutschman to break for home as Shortridge got Donahue into a rundown. By the time freshman shortstop Cameron Eden bounced a throw to home, it was too late, and the Beavers had added a seventh run to the tally. Two pitches later, Rutschman singled up the middle to drive home another.
Cal (21-22, 12-10), second in the Pac-12 in slugging, had a chance to get back into the game in the top of the sixth, when, with one out, Eden was able to reach first on a wild slider in the dirt for strike three. Second baseman Preston GrandPre -- who went 2-for-4 in the leadoff spot -- sent a grounder past a sliding Gretler, who got out of the way for shortstop Cadyn Grenier. Grenier made a sliding backhand stop at the fringe, but his throw was high and late to first, putting two men on.
Right fielder Jeffrey Mitchell singled softly to right, with the ball landing far enough in front of Preston Jones for Eden to score, but instead, he was held up, loading the bases for Vaughn, the Pac-12 home run leader. Vaughn fell behind 1-2, and stung and missed at a slider in the turf. The ball got by catcher Rutschman and to the backstop, but Heimlich alertly covered home, and made a tough tag to cut down Eden and end the inning on an unorthodox double play.
Cal sophomore righty Joey Matulovich (4-1, 4.89 ERA) will take on the Beavers' Jake Thompson (9-0, 1.07 ERA) at 1:30 p.m., on Saturday, on the Pac-12 Networks.