BERKELEY -- If there were a typical Tanner Dodson start, Monday's 5-3 California win over No. 10 Stanford was it: 77 pitches over 3.2 innings, with 6 hits and 2 walks. What wasn't typical was that Dodson -- who pitching coach Thomas Eager says has by far the best stuff he's seen as a coach -- had command of that stuff, flashing the sweeping, darting, sinking repertoire that so excited the Cal staff in the preseason, and using it to strike out 7.
"The best he's looked since he's been here," said head coach David Esquer, who bested his former coach Mark Marquess in his final bow at Evans Diamond, after the Cardinal had taken the previous four from the Bears (22-26, 13-14 in Pac-12) this season. "I know Thomas has been working hard, trying to figure him out, and really came to him and said, 'Listen, I watch you throw from the outfield, and it's different from when you pitch. You need to pitch more like you throw from the outfield,' and I think that little adjustment kind of clicked with him. It was good today. He was swing-and-miss, he didn't slow up [his arm] on his off-speed pitches. The adjustments he made allowed him to be a lot more deceptive. A lot of swing out-of-hand."
"We made a little mechanical tweak, just staying through a little longer than normal," Dodson said. "I had a pretty good fastball and slider. I was mixing up pitches, and Thomas did a good job calling, and Ty Greene did a phenomenal job blocking behind the plate. It's huge. He's one of the best defensive catchers on the West Coast, and he's just unbelievable. [I have] a lot of confidence throwing any pitch in any count."
At the plate, Dodson was just as impressive, going 2-for-3 from the right side, hitting a rocket triple to left center and then scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth, before flipping around to the left side against reliever Tyler Thorne in the seventh and driving in an insurance run.
"He did everything tonight," Esquer said. "He had the base hit to extend the lead for us, the triple to put us out in the lead and he scored the go-ahead run. He had a great night."
Just as Dodson was difficult to puzzle out for the Cardinal (33-14, 14-9), so too was Stanford starter Chris Castellanos. Spotting a low-80s fastball with a big 12-6 curve and a tumbling change up, the Cardinal lefty was difficult to square up, but the Bears found a way to nickel-and-dime the senior southpaw in the bottom of the second.
After Dodson got out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a one-hopper back to the box in the top of the frame, he got things going in the bottom, swatting a 1-1 change up like he was swinging a wet newspaper, sending it over the mound for an infield single.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1778495-bttv-esquer-talks-... shortened up on a 2-2 breaking ball and lined it softly into left for a single, and freshman shortstop Cameron Eden sent a surprise bunt up the third base line, where third baseman Jesse Kuet decided to let the ball roll, and roll it did, all the way to the bag, without steering foul.
Davis -- playing his first game in the field since injuring his shoulder diving in center against Arizona State -- took the same approach as Greene, softly serving a 2-2 curve the other way for an RBI single.
Second baseman Preston GrandPre seemingly picked up the same newspaper Dodson used, and sent a first-pitch tapper off of Castellanos's glove, as he reached back across his body to try and make a catch. The ball was slowed down enough that second baseman Duke Kinamon had to rush his throw, which went up the first base line, allowing two runs to score and staking the Bears to a 3-0 lead.
"I looked up and we had eight hits, but we only had one inning of rally in the first four innings," Esquer said.
Dodson's end wasn't spelled by dinks and dunks, but it did come. Twice in the top of the fourth, Dodson served up ringing shots to the power alley in left center, only to be saved by Davis's speed and glove. Between those was sandwiched a double into the right field corner by freshman catcher Maverick Handley. Stanford first baseman Matt Winaker -- who'd looked the fool chasing Dodson's darting power sinker twice for strike three in the early goings -- then came throgh by driving an 0-1 offering into left center for an RBI double, spelling the end for Dodson.
"That's the first time we put the lineup out, out there, where you had Ty Greene and Jonah Davis and Tanner Dodson pitching [since early in the year], and I said, 'It's been a long time since we put this lineup out there,'" Esquer said. "It made a difference. You saw it, defensively, it made a difference. On the mound, Dodson made a difference. It was good to have Jonah back."
Righty Andrew Buckley came in and hit Nico Hoerner, and was promptly lifted for Aaron Shortridge, who got Quinn Brodey to ground out to first, with Vaughn going into a near-full splits to make the play, and tossing to a covering Shortridge at first for the final out of the inning.
Shortridge tossed a scoreless fifth, but was replaced by Jack Cosca in the top of the sixth, where he gave up a leadoff home run to sophomore right fielder Brandon Wulff -- his second of the weekend and fifth of the year, cutting the deficit to 1. After allowing a line-drive up the middle to Handley for a single, Cosca was lifted for closer Erik Martinez. Martinez allowed a sacrifice bunt, and then served up an 0-1 RBI single past a diving GrandPre at second to tie things up.
Greene, though, in his first game back behind the plate since injuring his hand against San Francisco, threw Winaker out at second, and then mowed down Nico Hoerner, who reached via a walk, to end the inning.
"That first inning, that was huge," Martinez said. "The best thing you can look for, ever, especially when I'm struggling with the balls in that first inning. For him to throw two guys out, that's awesome."
"Ty was special today," Esquer said.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1775654-andrew-vaughn-brin... Cal crept back ahead in the bottom of the sixth, when Dodson squared up the first truly hard-hit ball off Castellanos into the left center field gap. The drive went off the glove of a leaping Jack Klein, then off the top of the wall and onto the ground, as Dodson motored to third. A groundout to second by Greene brought Dodson home, giving the Bears a 4-3 lead.
"He just left a fastball up, and I just took advantage of it," Dodson said.
Dodson struck again in the bottom of the seventh, making Thorne pay for intentionally walking Denis Karas. With Karas on first and Mitchell on second after his 11th stolen base of the season, Dodson lined a 1-2 offering from Thorne into center, bringing Mitchell around to score an insurance run. Karas got into a run-down between second and third and managed to escape a tag by Kuet, putting men at second and third with two outs, but Greene grounded out to first, limiting the damage.
Martinez found his groove, though, particularly on the inside corner with his patented slider, striking out 2 but allowing just 3 hits over his 4.0 innings of work, and working around 3 walks.
"Once I got a good feel for multiple pitches, especially that slider, I had a lot of confidence throwing it in and out," Martinez said.
Martinez earned the win to move to 4-3, and threw 75 pitches.
"I think looking back to the Washington outing, this was a very similar scenario," said Martinez, who threw a career-high 4.2 innings against the Huskies on April 29. "Just trying to get one out of the weekend, and I thought there was a big chance they needed me to finish the game, so I took the ball and ran with it."
"He always asks for the ball," Esquer said, "and he never wants to come out."
The Bears return to action on Thursday against No. 6 TCU, starting a three-game set to wrap up the home schedule. That game is slated for 7:05 p.m. Cal will play the final two home games on the Pac-12 Networks, with Friday's contest slated for a 7 p.m. start, with Sunday's Senior Day slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch.