The California baseball team continued its winning ways on the road on Friday in Salt Lake City, coming back from a 5-4 deficit to notch a 9-5 win over host Utah in the 2013 Pac-12 opener, thanks to back-to-back doubles off the bats of Devon Rodriguez and Andrew Knapp with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.
The Bears (11-7, 1-0) have now won six straight games, and won on Friday despite the first struggles of big freshman hurler Ryan Mason.
Knapp and Rodriguez went a combined 6-for-10 with four runs and five RBI on Friday, with Knapp notching his eighth straight game with at least one base hit.
Knapp has now hit in eight straight games, going 14-for-30 (.467) with nine runs scored, 12 RBI, four doubles and a home run since going 0-for-3 against No. 1 North Carolina on March 2 in Houston, and is now hitting .351 with a team-leading 15 RBI.
Sophomore third baseman Chris Paul -- Knapp’s co-leader with 15 RBI -- went 2-for-5 with a run as Cal pounded out 12 hits on the evening, with the third- through sixth-place hitters all registering multi-hit days and going a combined 10-for-20.
Thanks to Rodriguez’s first home run of the season with two down in the top of the first, an RBI single by Jacob Wark and a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Michael Theofanopoulos in the top of the fourth and an infield RBI single by Theofanopoulos in the top of the sixth, Cal held a commanding lead over the Utes headed into the late innings, but for the first time this season, Mason faltered.
After getting shortstop Cody Scaggari to fly out to lead off the bottom of the sixth, Mason surrendered three straight singles to hot-hitting freshman second baseman Kody Davis, junior left fielder Tyler Yagi and junior first baseman T.J. Bennett, before being lifted for side-arming righty Trevor Hildenberger.
Hildenberger -- who came into the game with a 2.81 ERA -- uncorked a wild pitch to freshman third baseman Dallas Carroll, putting to men into scoring position and allowing Davis to score. After walking Carroll, Hildenberger allowed three straight singles, before finally escaping thanks to a 4-3 double play ball to second baseman Brenden Farney.
Down 5-4, the Bears roared back with two runs in the top of the seventh thanks to arguably the best 1-2 middle-of-the-order punch in the Pac-12. After freshman Grant Diede -- playing left field in place of the injured Brian Celsi -- struck out swinging against sophomore Utah starter Mitch Watrous and freshman Devin Pearson grounded out to short, pesky Mike Reuvekamp -- who, despite a .226 batting average, boasts an on-base percentage of .364 – took his team-high seventh hit-by-pitch of the season, senior righty Chase Rezac came on to try and put out the fire.
Rodriguez then flared a double down the right field line to plate Reuvekamp, tying the game at 5-5, before Knapp sent a double to center to bring Rodriguez around to score and give Cal the 6-5 lead.
Sophomore Bears righty Keaton Siomkin -- who tossed two shutout innings in a 4-3 win over Fresno State on Saturday – continued his resurgence, striking out five over three perfect frames of work to earn his first save of the season.
Cal tacked on three more runs in the top of the eighth thanks to two errors by the conference’s worst fielding squad. Paul led off the frame when a hard groundball to short was booted by Scaggari. Paul advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Theofanopoulos, and took third on a groundout by Farney. Freshman Max Dutto -- who started the season at third before being benched because of a 5-for-35 start -- then came in to pinch hit for Diede, and delivered a looping single to right center field which was misplayed by senior right fielder Connor Eppard, allowing Dutto to reach third. Pearson then reached on a hit-by-pitch, and moved into scoring position with his first stolen base of the year, and Rodriguez drove both runners in on a single up the middle to cap off a 3-for-5, two-run, four-RBI day, lifting his average to .391.
Mason was saddled with the no-decision after going a season-high 5.1 innings, allowing six hits, three runs, no walks and three strikeouts.
“It was a good win for us tonight,” said Cal coach David Esquer. “The offense did a good job of continuing to score and our team did not overreact to giving up the lead. Ryan Mason was solid, but ran out of gas in the sixth inning. Keaton Siomkin was outstanding in relief and Devon Rodriguez had a couple of huge RBI hits.”
The Bears take the field again on Saturday for the second game of the three-game set at Spring Mobile Park at 3 p.m. MT, with senior lefty Justin Jones (0-1, 5.12) on the bump.