SAN FRANCISCO -- California designated hitter Vince Bruno hadn't hit a home run in a game since his days at Los Medanos College. On Tuesday, both Bruno and senior center fielder Chad Bunting went yard for a pair of two-run jobs as the Bears took down San Francisco 4-3 at Dante Benedetti Diamond.
"Let's see, it had to be freshman year of junior college," Bruno smiled. "Last year, I hit the fence capping, which is kind of anti-climactic, but it's good to get that one out of the way."
"He's hit one in practice before, but not more than one, I don't think," smiled head coach David Esquer. "Few and far between."
After a scare in the bottom of the first, when a line drive off the bat of Dons first baseman Nick Balog brought Jason Mahood chugging around third, only for Mahood to miss the plate and get tagged out by a diving Chadd Krist, Bruno tagged San Francisco starter Andrew Pulido for a two-run bomb with two outs in the top of the third to give the Bears (12-7) a 2-0 lead.
"I was just trying to stay back," Bruno said. "I just wanted to get my swing off; that's one thing that I really wanted to do. It's something that I didn't do last weekend -- I didn't really get my full swing off. Once I got the bat head on it, it felt really good."
The Dons (10-12) struck back in the bottom of the frame, when a double and a stolen base by center fielder Justin Maffei were cashed in by a line-drive double into the left center field gap by Mahood to cut the lead to 2-1. Balog then delivered a sinking liner into right center for an RBI double to plate Mahood and knot the score at 2-2.
Krist led off the top of the fourth with a five-pitch walk from reliever Jordan Remer, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by third baseman Mitch Delfino. Bunting then delivered a mammoth shot to left for his team-leading fourth longball of the season.
Bunting has been on a tear over the past two games, going 3-for-9 with three runs, three RBI and two home runs.
"Chad's been driving in runs all year for us," Esquer said. "His average doesn't show it, but what he is, is clutch, and he's dangerous. He's dangerous with runners in scoring position, and quite honestly, he's got the confidence to get those types of hits in big situations off of good people. Not everyone's doing that."
An RBI groundout by shortstop Aritz Garcia in the bottom of the fourth proved to be all the Dons could muster for the rest of the day, as starter Michael Theofanopoulos went 6.0 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five and showing much better command of his fastball and breaking pitches. Theofanopoulos threw 102 pitches on the day.
"The reality is, how to manage when there is a bump, when there is a leadoff walk -- how do you manage that? How do you not make it a complete disaster? Hey, he bounced back," Esquer said. "We get two then they get two, and that's not great, but he was stronger at the end, which was good. It was a step forward."
After Theofanopoulos exited, true freshman Keaton Siomkin threw two scoreless innings, walking one and striking out two to lower his ERA to 1.80 on the season.
"His command is similar to the role Kevin Miller played for us as a freshman," said Esquer, referring to last season's team MVP. "Now, he didn't go on a 42-inning scoreless start like Miller did, but it's just really big to have someone reliable in there who's going to throw strikes. If it comes down to something, we're going to get beat by achievement, not by ourselves."
Closer Logan Scott bounced back from his rough outing on Sunday against Oregon State by keeping the ball low and finding his change up, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning with a strikeout for his third save of the season.
The Bears now go on the road against Arizona State for a three-game set this weekend, before heading out to the Lone Star State for a four-game series against fellow 2011 College World Series participant Texas in Round Rock, before returning for three games in Los Angeles against USC.
"I think it's important that we did win a close game, because it showed that if we don't make errors, and if we pitch well, we can hang with anybody," Bruno said. "If we don't play the sound baseball that we're known for playing, it's going to be tough on us, so we can take this into the weekend, not make errors, pitch well and get the timely hits when we need it."