BERKELEY -- Daulton Jefferies spins six scoreless, Brian Celsi pressures the defense with his speed…
And the Children Shall Lead
BERKELEY -- Daulton Jefferies is just a slip of a thing, a slim and unassuming 18-year old freshman, just five months in to his first year of college. On Friday night, though, in the first ever season opener at California's Evans Diamond under the lights, he was bigger than the state of Texas, shutting out the No. 18 Longhorns to power a 7-0 Bears win.
"I tried to just execute pitches as much as possible," Jefferies said. "They did put pressure on me the first two innings. They got two blooper hits in there, but I just tried to stay composed and throw my pitches. I thought I did pretty well."
Jefferies scattered six hits – just four after the first inning – across his 6.0 scoreless frames in his collegiate debut, striking out four and walking one with fellow Atwater (Calif.) Buhach Colony product – and Cal football offensive lineman -- Aaron Cochran among the 825 in attendance.
[PREMIUM VIDEO: Scouting Freshman Daulton Jefferies]
David Esquer. "I think, down the line, he's going to have to get more hitters out with his breaking pitch. He was more fastball-change today, and he was dotting the fastball and had something on it. The better pitchers on Friday are going to have to pitch with a three-pitch mix, so that's going to have to improve, but to be quite honest, any pretty good pitcher can go five innings. There are a lot that can go six. The guys that are the guys go into the seventh."
Jefferies out-dueled Texas ace Parker French, who had his second nightmare outing against the Bears, after allowing seven runs – three earned – on nine hits and a walk in 4.1 innings in Round Rock, Tex., back in 2012 as part of a 12-2 Cal romp.
On Friday, French gave up six runs in 5.0 innings of work, struggling mightily fielding a slick ball and committing two of the Longhorns' five errors.
"It was the defense," Esquer said. "In Friday-night baseball, you look for any edge that you can have, and they gave us too much on defense. If you do that, you're going to be tough to beat. He didn't help himself any. He was throwing the ball well, and when we got runners in scoring position, he was tough on us. Those mistakes really opened up the game for us."
Jefferies had no such trouble fielding his position, fielding a first-inning bunt from C.J. Hinojosa after allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, and then gobbling up a tapper to the mound off the bat of Jeremy Montalbano off a nasty change to cut Andy McGuire down at second.
Being an infielder before kind of helped me out," said Jefferies, who both pitched and played shortstop in high school, and was brought in as a two-way player. "Derek (Campbell) and Nick (Halamandaris) did a great job, and communication was great. We practice that every day, so it was pretty routine."
Jefferies also benefitted from a bit of help from his friends, as outfielders Brian Celsi and Devin Pearson made several big grabs in the outfield to save extra-base hits when his fastball drifted up in the zone early on.
"My outfield helped a whole lot," Jefferies smiled. "Those balls that they ran down were insane, but I loved to have them out there. I left it up a little bit, but as soon as I established the outside corner, I was able to get into a rhythm and slow it down."
Senior second baseman Derek Campbell -- playing his first game back after going down with a broken leg in the 11th game of 2013, and hitting leadoff, no less -- led the charge on offense, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored, but perhaps his biggest contribution came on a play where he didn't even register a hit.
"I was just excited to get back out there, no matter where I was playing, where I was in the lineup; I just wanted to play," Campbell said. "I knew my job was to get on, and when I got on, things happened."
With the score knotted at 0-0 after two and a half innings, Campbell stung a bunt on the first pitch he saw from French in the bottom of the third up the third base line. French darted towards the ball, fielded it and fired over first baseman Kacy Clemens -- who's father Roger (yes, that Roger Clemens) was in the stands. Shortstop Mike Reuvekamp -- on board with a leadoff single – took third, and Campbell took second, setting the stage for a first-pitch sacrifice fly to right center field by senior Vince Bruno to put Cal up, 1-0.
"It was kind of who was going to crack first, and they made a mistake," Esquer said.
The Bears exploded for five more runs in the bottom of the fifth, with the rally once again keyed by Campbell. After the 6-foot, 183-pounder tucked a groundball double inside the third base bag to lead off the frame, Bruno killed an 0-1 bunt in front of the plate. With Campbell going on contact, French once again charged in to field the ball and threw it into the Texas bullpen back of third, allowing Campbell to score.
"I knew he was hesitant to field the ball, and I had a decent jump, and I felt like I could make it close enough," Campbell said. "I thought I was going to be safe, but then it didn't matter."
Two batters later, third baseman Brenden Farney worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases for Celsi, who sent a hard grounder to second that kicked off the lip of the infield, handcuffing Brooks Marlow, who threw it over Clemens' head and bringing in two more runs.
A wild pitch by French to redshirt freshman catcher Jesse Kay -- starting his first collegiate game – scored Farney and moved Celsi to second. With French in the stretch, Celsi put the pressure on and broke for third. McGuire was unable to handle French's throw, which rattled around the Texas bullpen and allowed Celsi to score on a stolen base and an error.
Throughout the night, Cal bested Texas at its own game, using speed and the cold Berkeley night to pressure the Longhorns defense. In the bottom of the eighth, Campbell sent a fly ball to deep right center and off the wall for a stand-up double, and with one out, Pearson rang a single into center, bringing Campbell home to score for the final tally.
"I think we were just more prepared than them," Campbell said. "I think our conditions that we've played all year in, played for us, instead of against us. It's slicker than turf, and they had some young guys out there, so the first game out, it's kind of understandable, but I feel like we were just more prepared than them, today."
-- Though the Bears rattled off 10 hits, with eight different Cal players tallying at least one base knock apiece, Rodriguez went just 1-for-5 on the night, with his only hit coming in the eighth off of Chad Hollingsworth with two outs. Esquer said that he wouldn't have thought the Bears could trounce the Longhorns as they did with the fifth-year slugger having such a poor day at the dish.
"I don't know that I'd have believed you, but what would have had to have happened is what happened, which is, we'd have to get a great pitching performance out of a young kid," Esquer said. "Jefferies gave us that."
-- Kay and Jefferies weren't the only Bears to make their college debuts on Friday. Outfielder Aaron Knapp (0-for-1), second baseman Robbie Tenerowicz (0-for-1) and righty relievers Alex Martinez (1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R) and Andrew Buckley (1.0 IP. 0 H, 0 BB, 0 R) also were able to get their debuts out of the way.
"I think that was something we tried to do, was try to get them in there in a spot where we can get a read on how we're going to be able to use them later on," Esquer said. "If they come out here and they're not comfortable and they give them something and then we've got to get them out of there, then we've got to usher them in maybe even slower than that. This is a good team, and they're going to get their baptism with guys who can really play."
-- As lopsided as the score wound up being, it could have been a lot worse for the Big 12 power, as Cal left 10 men stranded.
"We still didn't come through with a couple opportunities that you want to get done," Esquer said. "We were able to overcome that, but there was a little more gap early as well, that we just didn't take advantage of."
-- Texas left eight men on base, with Jefferies clutching up in several big spots to get key outs. With two men on in the top of the fourth, Jefferies spun one of just three curveballs he threw on the night over the outside corner to catch right fielder Ben Johnson looking. After allowing a leadoff single to Hinojosa in the top of the sixth, Jefferies fanned designated hitter Tres Barrera on another deuce, then got McGuire to line out to Celsi in right. After a ground-rule double by Montalbano, Jefferies got the powerful Clemens to ground out to second on one pitch to end the inning.
Jefferies' final curve came in the top of the fifth in a 2-2 count against Mark Payton, who went 3-for-4 on the day. Jefferies' bender caught the senior outfielder looking to finish off a 1-2-3 inning.
"I didn't throw a lot of curveballs today, just because the necessity wasn't there," Jefferies said. "Then, I threw the backdoor one to the lefty (Payton). I just tried to keep them off-balance as much as possible."
Cal takes the field again on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the first of a brace of games behind left-handed senior Kyle Porter, with the second game of the doubleheader scheduled for half an hour after the conclusion of the first game. That second contest will see the college debut of another highly-touted freshman in 6-foot-6 righty Alex Schick, who was drafted last June by the Houston Astros in the 17th round.
[PREMIUM VIDEO: Scouting Freshman Alex Schick]
"It'll be the same as Jefferies," Esquer said. "If they can get us into the sixth or seventh, we're going to let them. I think if they can get us through five, great, but we're looking for the guys who can get us into the seventh inning."
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