Coming into this weekend’s Tiger Classic, California senior slugger Devon Rodriguez started out the season 2-for-14, with nary a single extra-base hit. On Sunday, he finally put his first longball of the season on the board, as he and No. 2 hitter Vince Bruno went back-to-back in the bottom of the first as part of a three-run inning, fueling an 8-3 romp over Arkansas Pine Bluff.
Bruno -- who socked a two-run job to score leadoff man Devin Pearson (on board with a five-pitch walk) -- wasn’t done, going 2-for-3 on the afternoon, with two runs, four RBIs, a stolen base and a walk to up his season average to a team-high .471 (8-for-17). Bruno now has a team-high five runs scored, a team-leading .647 slugging percentage and a team-best .500 on-base percentage, picking up right where he left off in 2012, before he had to undergo two hip surgeries and miss all of 2013.
Cal (5-2) rattled off 10 hits on the afternoon, with three players notching multi-hit games and seven players tallying at least one base-hit.
After a quick 11-pitch top of the first, the Bears staked lefty starter Michael Theofanopoulos to a comfortable lead, and while he did give up a pair of runs in a shaky top of the third, he battened down the hatches and allowed just one more run after that, striking out nine and walking two in 6.0 innings of work, getting his first win of the season.
Cal put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fourth, as the Bears finally strung together several hits with men in scoring position – a prospect with which they struggled against then-No. 18 Texas the week before at home – putting the merry-go-round in motion to bring around four more runs.
With one out, true freshman third baseman Lucas Erceg -- making his first collegiate start – rapped out his first collegiate hit on an 0-1 offering from freshman righty reliever Dixon Marble -- a single to right center.
Sophomore catcher Mitchell Kranson -- starting his second game in a row behind the dish – then ripped a first-pitch down-the-line double to right to put men at second and third with just one out. After a five-pitch walk to shortstop Mike Reuvekamp, and a strikeout by Pearson, Bruno came up big yet again.
With the bases juiced, Bruno singled to right-center on the first pitch he saw, bringing home Erceg and Kranson and moving Reuvekamp to third. Bruno and Reuvekamp then teamed up for a rare double steal, with Bruno taking second and drawing a throw from catcher Tyler Oertle, allowing Reuvekamp to take home.
Rodriguez then singled to center on a 2-2 pitch, bringing Bruno around to score.
Theofanopoulos came a bit unglued in the top of the sixth, hitting Oertle with his second pitch and allowing the junior righty to swipe second. A pair of groundouts scored the Pine Bluff catcher, making the score 7-3, but Cal came right back in the bottom of the frame to add another run of its own. A leadoff double by Kranson – who went 2-for-4 on the day – was followed up with a sacrifice bunt from Reuvekamp and a single up the middle by Pearson, bringing Kranson around to score the final tally.
The Bears next head out to San Diego for the University of San Diego Tournament, and that field will be decidedly less friendly than that of the Tiger Classic in Auburn, Ala. Cal will square off with 2013 NCAA Regional teams UNC Wilmington and USD, as well as 2011 Regional participant Baylor, against whom Rodriguez has some very fond memories.