Arizona coach Jay Johnson wasn’t going to take any chances with Cal slugger Andrew Vaughn.
After the junior first baseman and projected top-five pick in the MLB draft flew out to the warning track in center field in his first at-bat Friday night, Johnson intentionally walked him three straight times.
But with the score tied and runners on first and second in the top of the eighth, Johnson had no choice: He had to pitch to Vaughn.
Vaughn lined a single to center to drive in the go-ahead run. Teammate Korey Lee followed with a three-run homer, and Cal defeated Arizona 10-7 in the opener of their three-game series at Hi Corbett Field.
The loss snapped the Wildcats’ four-game winning streak and dropped their record to 17-15, 5-8 in the Pac-12. The Golden Bears won their seventh in a row and improved to 18-11, 6-4. Cal has won six in a row against Arizona.
The Wildcats had to adjust their lineup because of the unexpected absence of shortstop Dayton Dooney. Dooney landed on his shoulder while diving for a ball at Grand Canyon on Tuesday. He was tended to by a trainer but remained in the game.
With shortstop Jacob Blas (knee) out for the season, Johnson had to shift Cameron Cannon from second to short – a move that did not go well earlier in the season.
Cannon served as the primary shortstop while Blas was away from the team for nine games to deal with a personal matter. Cannon struggled defensively, at one point making 11 errors in a five-game stretch.
When Blas returned, Cannon moved back to second base. When Blas hurt his knee at Arizona State on March 31, Dooney took over at short.
Cannon committed his team-leading 16th error in the second inning Friday, making a low throw that first baseman Austin Wells couldn’t handle. But Cannon’s teammates picked him up.
With runners on first and second and nobody out, center fielder Donta Williams ran down Sam Wezniak’s drive into deep left-center. The next batter, Grant Holman, hit a chopper toward third base. Nick Quintana charged the ball, backhanded it, stepped on the bag and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
The teams traded blows over the next several innings. Cal took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third on Lee’s RBI double. Justin Wylie’s two-run home run to center field in the bottom of the fourth – his first as a Wildcat – put Arizona up 2-1.
The Bears regained the lead on Max Flower’s two-run triple to right in the top of the fifth. The Wildcats tied it in the bottom half on Wells’ RBI single to left.
Cal chased UA starter Randy Labaut with a single and a double to lead off the sixth. After Quintana threw out Wezniak at the plate, Quentin Selma doubled to left-center off reliever Vince Vannelle to put the Bears up 4-3.
Arizona rallied again in the bottom of the seventh. Matthew Dyer hit a one-out double to left-center. After Wells struck out, Quintana hit a hard one-hopper to short that Wezniak couldn’t handle. The single plated Dyer to make it 4-4.
Cannon redeemed himself in the top of the seventh. With Flower on third and one out, Johnson brought the infield in. Wezniak hit a hard grounder to Cannon’s right. He made a diving stop to hold Flower and fired to first to retire Wezniak.
Cal scored six runs in all in the eighth. Vannelle, who entered Friday with a 2.30 ERA, allowed four of them and took the loss.
Arizona had the winning run at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Ryan Holgate flew out to left with the bases loaded.
- Wells has reached base in 26 consecutive games, the longest streak by a Wildcat since Quintana reached base in 28 straight games in 2017. Williams has a 24-game on-base streak.
- Arizona did not announce a starting pitcher for Saturday, but if form holds, redshirt-freshman right-hander Quinn Flanagan (4-1, 4.41 ERA) will open Game 2. Junior right-hander Jared Horn (1-1, 1.96) will start for Cal.