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Tie game. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Bases loaded.

Swing. Crack. Game.

Cal freshman and Maria Carrillo grad Andrew Vaughn, feeling good after smacking a three-run homer earlier in the game, hit a walk-off grand slam to lead the Golden Bears to a 13-9 win over visiting USC last Friday.

It’s a once in a lifetime, dream moment. Except that two days later, he did it again. No, it wasn’t a grand slam on Sunday, but this time his two-run, walk-off homer came in extra innings for even more dramatic effect.

“It’s almost every kid’s dream,” he said.

To pull it off twice in 48 hours?

“The first time, I was in shock and the second time I didn’t believe it was happening. It was such a blur to me,” he said.

On Friday, when he got his second strike, he choked up on the bat and reminded himself what he was looking for.

“I’ve just got to put this ball in play, put it somewhere,” he remembers thinking.

He put it over the fence. Game over.

“I don’t think I’ve seen a right-handed hitter hit a ball to that part of the park in my 18 years here,” Cal head coach David Esquer said.

Vaughn is riding the wave of a nearly unbelievable season.

The first baseman leads the Pac-12 in home runs and RBIs and was named Collegiate Baseball and Pac-12 Player of the Week for his heroics against the Trojans.

Watch the clip of Vaughn’s homer Sunday and you can almost feel his joy.

After rounding third, he flings his helmet so high into the sky that both of his feet leave the ground, scissor-kicking the air as he heads for home and into the arms of his jubilant teammates.

What’s all the more remarkable in the scene is that in all of Vaughn’s vaunted high school career at Maria Carrillo (he was The Press Democrat All-Empire Player of the Year as a senior), he hit just one homer. One.

That’s not to say he wasn’t effective at the plate. Vaughn hit .326 as a senior for the North Bay League champ Pumas.

Now one year later, that same Vaughn, albeit a slighter leaner, more muscular version, has smacked a team-leading 11 dingers for the second place Golden Bears.

“I have never had a freshman hit third and stay at third. Andrew has stayed at third,” Esquer said of his batting order. “That essentially is your best hitter. Your top two guys get on base and your No. 3 guy is the best chance to drive them in.”

Vaughn’s name is all over the Bears’ individual game high stats: RBI (7), doubles (2), and home runs (2 — twice). He’s batting .371 with a slugging percentage of .629, both stop stats among guys with significant playing time.

He’s first in hits (56), RBIs (43), triples (1), home runs (11), and total bases (95).

He even leads the team in being hit by a pitch. The guy takes one for the team more than any other Golden Bear.

I asked him, from all of those stats, which one is most important, which one means the most? And his answer will tell you more about Andrew Vaughn than his batting average or RBI total ever will.

“My favorite right now is that we are second in the Pac-12,” he said.

Team first.

“He really is one of those kids, as a coach, who is too good to be true,” Esquer said. “He’s got a great demeanor, unbelievable work ethic.”

Vaughn’s numbers are not just solid for the Bears who are 19-18 overall and 11-7 in conference. He has the fifth-best batting average in the Pac-12, second-highest slugging percentage and second-most hits.

“Good hitters in our league are usually good hitters in the world of baseball,” Esquer said.

And the Pac-12, with three squads ranked in the top 25, including No. 1 Oregon State, is not an easy place for a freshman to find his footing.

But Vaughn is making it look easy.

“Our league is pretty relentless. There is not a weekend to get it right, they just keep coming at you,” Esquer said. “He’s been so consistent, it’s been refreshing.”

Esquer trusted Vaughn’s work ethic and understanding of the game so much that, on defense, he has played him at first base all season.

Vaughn has played shortstop, second base and pitcher for the majority of his career, never first.

“It’s been a huge benefit to our whole team,” Esquer said. “He’s incredibly humble, incredibly hard working.”

That part, the move to first, was perhaps the biggest adjustment Vaughn said he’s been faced with as a collegian.

“I have never played the position more than a handful of times,” he said. “It was a bit of a culture shock because it’s a whole new part of the diamond.”

I’ll have to take Vaughn at his word that he’s shocked by anything, that anything this season hasn’t been eerily smooth.

His numbers, his emergence as a team leader on the young Golden Bears, has been so noteworthy that Esquer said Vaughn’s teammates have to come to expect big things from the big first baseman.

“He’s got such respect that nothing he is doing is surprising anybody,” he said. “I almost see that as a sign of respect, they kind of joke, like, ‘Of course he did.’”

“To have someone like him emerge is special,” Esquer said.

Of course he did.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”

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