Cal baseball ends a four year postseason drought after they were selected on Monday to the NCAA tournament! The Bears will be the #3 seed in the College Station regional with host #1 Texas A&M, #2 Coastal Carolina and #4 Texas Southern. Texas A&M is the 10th overall seed.
It was a great season for the Cal baseball team, who finished 34-19 overall and 18-12 in the Pac-12, good for third place in the conference. The last time Cal won 18 conference games was 1995, under head coach Bob Milano. The last time the Bears were in the Top 3 in the conference was 2001 (also third). We may remember the 2011 team making the College World Series and their incredible story coming back from near cancellation, but on paper this team is miles ahead of that team. However, that doesn't mean we can expect a similar story, as this will be a tough regional.
First, let's recap the Oregon State series. Cal lost 2 out of 3, but came out strong in the season finale and the two losses were closer than the final score indicated.
FRIDAY: Oregon State 4, Cal 0
Cal ace Daulton Jefferies had a terrific outing but was bested by Oregon State ace Andre Moore. They both pitched five scoreless innings to start the game, with very few baserunners on either side (Devin Pearson's fourth inning hit was the first hit for either side), but it was the Beavers' offense that struck first, scoring two in the sixth. They would later extend the lead to 4-0 but all they need was one as Andre Moore completed the complete game shutout on the strength of 13 strikeouts. He would also face the minimum, as Cal's only two baserunners would be retired on the basepaths on a caught stealing and a double play.
SATURDAY: Oregon State 9, Cal 0
Similar story as Drew Rasmussen, who pitched a perfect game against Washington State two months prior, also threw a complete game shutout against the Bears. Ryan Mason went toe to toe with Rasmussen, as like Friday the game was scoreless in the early goings. It wasn't until the seventh that Oregon State pulled through with three runs (two charged to Mason). That would be enough for the Beavers, but they added insult to injury by piling on six runs in the eighth inning thus the misleading blowout score.
SUNDAY: Cal 7, Oregon State 3
Cal got off to a great start, scoring in the first inning and making the lead 2-0 in the fourth. However, a two run triple by Joe Gillette off Matt Ledrech tied things up. The Bears responded right away thanks to Lucas Erceg's 11th home run, that also scored Devin Pearson and Cal took the lead again. Ledrech would pitch a scoreless fifth and earn the win after Cal got some insurance runs in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.
ABOUT THE COLLEGE STATION REGIONAL
Cal's first opponent is Coastal Carolina. That game will be on at 10AM on the Watch ESPN/ESPN 3 app. Let's take a look at the seeds in order from #1-#4.
#1 TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M fell to fellow Tournament host Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament finals and were snubbed a Top 8 national seed, but are still a very challenging opponent. They were 30-6 at their home ballpark in College Station, Blue Bell Park, and had an 18-10 record in the Southeastern Conference that saw 7 teams make the tournament. Right now the pitcher Cal would face if they get to play Texas A&M (which likely requires a win against Coastal Carolina Friday) but it could be Grayson Long, who has a very good 9-0 record and a 2.62 ERA in 15 starts. There's a good chance head coach Rob Childress will keep him for the Winner's Bracket game, rather than start him against Texas Southern. Not that their offense isn't anything to worry about, as they have a team batting average of .312.
#2 COASTAL CAROLINA
Even if the Chanticleers aren't a big name school, they have definitely earned the two seed and have to be treated like the favorites they are on Friday. They had a 38-19 overall record despite having the seventh toughest schedule in the country, and were 7-3 against the SEC and ACC combined. Although Cal did beat Coastal Carolina 17-0 during the 2011 season, this match should be different.
We all know what our team can do. Against the other 5 Pac-12 tournament participants, they played very well against Oregon, USC and Arizona State at home, but only won 1 of 3 against UCLA and Oregon State on the road. This team has upset capabilities and are probably miffed that they didn't get a #2 seed in a more favorable regional, so they got something to prove. As one of the top home run hitting teams in the nation, they have a chance to make noise in the tournament.
#4 TEXAS SOUTHERN
Texas Southern won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title to gain an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament and get to stay in-state for their tournament appearance. If Cal can't pull off the upset against Coastal Carolina Friday, they will likely have to play the Tigers to keep their season alive. Having won 6 of 7, and having pulled off tourney upsets before, a win against these guys can't be assumed.
AROUND THE PAC-12
Oregon was able to sneak into the NCAA tournament despite a shaky conference record, and are a #3 seed at Missouri State.
Oregon State gets to play at the Dallas Baptist regional. If that school sounds familiar, Cal played them in 2011 in the Super Regionals in Santa Clara and advanced to the College World Series. However, Dallas Baptist has been one of the best teams in the country the last few seasons.
UCLA gets to host a regional in Los Angeles while Arizona State and USC, both #2 seeds, get to play close in Fullerton and Lake Elsinore respectively.
Cal would not play any conference teams unless they make the College World Series. A Cal regional win would mean playing the winner of the regional with #7 TCU.
HOW TO WATCH
Friday's game will start at 10am online only at WatchESPN and ESPN3. Get your work computers or phones ready, as I think the game against Coastal Carolina should be a wild one! You can use this post as the livethread.
Go Bears! I hope next week will be a Super Regional preview instead of a Season wrapup!