NOTE: Last week I combined Baseball's and Softball's recaps into one entry. Because of Softball's postseason run, I've decided to separate them this week. I'll probably combine them again next season since I know neither team's regular seasons have enough followers (but they should!). Softball postseason preview/Stanford recap will be posted tomorrow!
Cal baseball went east to North Carolina for a non-conference series against the Campbell Fighting Camels. (Because only 11 Pac-12 teams field baseball teams, one team plays a non-conference series during the conference season. This week it was Cal.) With an RPI of 97, before and after playing Cal, this was a solid series win but not exactly a big test. Let's see how the games went!
FRIDAY: Campbell 5, California 3
The series did not get off to a good start for Cal. Sophomore ace Daulton Jefferies was solid, going eight innings, but surrendered five runs, including four in the first three innings. Cal mounted a late comeback, scoring two in the Top of the 9th, and had the tying run at the plate. However, the Camels held on for the win.
SATURDAY GAME 1: California 4, Campbell 0
The game was delayed three hours due to rain, but Cal could not be slowed down. Junior Ryan Mason pitched a complete game shutout, only allowing five hits. Freshmen (and candidate for best-name-on-the-team award) Preston Grand Pre hit a two-run triple. Brian Celsi and Lucas Erceg also had RBIs in the game.
SATURDAY GAME 2: California 9, Campbell 4
Campbell took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but it was all Cal from them on. Cal scored six runs combined in the third, fourth and fifth innings and that would be enough. Lucas Erceg hit his tenth home run of the season (a no-doubter) and Mitchell Kranson hit his fourth of the year.
COMING UP NEXT
This weekend Cal returns home for the final series at Evans Diamond and penultimate series before the NCAA regionals. They host No. 15 USC. After having success against Top-10 Arizona State, USC may seem like a lesser challenge. But like Cal, USC has a lot to prove as this is their first season being relevant in quite some time as well. USC carries an RPI of 26 (by comparison, Cal is 39), which is in a virtual tie with Arizona State who is at 25. After that, Cal ends the year at Oregon State, which recently fell out of the NCAA Top 25 but is about on par with Cal in RPI and record.
Cal and USC have identical 15-9 conference records, with USC (34-16) having a slight edge in overall record over the Bears (31-16). They are also joined in second place by 15-9 Arizona State (30-17 overall) with Oregon State behind them at 14-9 (32-14 overall). UCLA is atop the pack at 18-6, 36-12 overall. The Pac-12 is attainable, and whoever wins this series may find themselves in striking distance of the conference title if they get help from Arizona, UCLA's next opponent, this weekend.
I don't know if I could call Cal a dead lock for the NCAA tournament just yet but things are looking good, especially since some polls (There are five in NCAA baseball. See bottom of the page.) have Cal in their Top 25. However, dropping all 6 could be a bad look to the selection committee, so it is vital the Bears make some noise in their final home series.
All six of Cal's remaining games are on Pac-12 networks, but it will be great to see a solid crowd at Evans Diamond this weekend. The series against Stanford was the only other series at Evans Diamond to have Pac-12 Network coverage (and were one of only few Pac-12 teams with NO ESPN games, home or road), so this could be a big opportunity for Cal to prove that they belong on national TV.
In addition, I also have some spare tickets. I'm trying to give them to friends of mine... but if I cannot give them out, maybe you'll see me tweet on @GoldenBlogs giving them out? No promises, just throwing that out there...
BEARS IN THE RANKINGS:
USAToday Coaches Poll: Received Votes (Were #25 last week, but fell out this week)
Baseball America: 22
Collegiate Baseball: 11 (!!!)