Behind a strong outing by Friday ace Daulton Jefferies and some timely hitting from a balanced offensive attack allowed the Bears to win their 2015 NCAA postseason opener by a 9-3 score over the 2nd seed of the Regional in Coastal Carolina. The Bears will take on the winner between host Texas A&M (who are heavy favorites in their first game) and Texas Southern on Saturday afternoon at 4 pm PT on ESPN3 online and SEC Network.
Coastal Carolina is struggling with injuries late on the season and had to go with LHP Shane Sawczak rather than their ace in RHP Alex Cunningham. It was a close 1-1 game until the Bears pulled ahead in the top of the 5th. Then added a pair of key insurance runs in the 6th to go up 4-1.
All 5 batters at the top of the lineup (and 6 total) had at least one RBI. Bears also took advantage of 2 Chanticleers errors.
Here is the post game press conference:
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
California Golden Bears (34-19, Tied for 3rd in Pac-12) vs. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (38-19, 2nd in Big South)
When: 10 AM PT
Likely Pitching Matchup: RHP Daulton Jefferies for Cal vs. RHP Alex Cunningham for Coastal
As the 3rd seed in the College Station Regional (hosted by top seed Texas A&M), the Bears open 2015 postseason against 2nd seed in Coastal Carolina. The Regional is a double elimination format, meaning that the Bears' season will extend beyond today regardless of the results.
Here is the Cal press conference from Thursday:
Daulton Jefferies - Friday Ace: Unless it's all a big ruse, head coach David Esquer will have sophomore Daulton Jefferies, who earned first team all Pac-12 honors, on the mound for the Bears. As Esquer said in the press conference, Jefferies is a guy who relies on his fastball (92-93 mph) control with a change and curve mixed in. For the season, Jefferies has an ERA of 3.12 with a 5-5 record (but who cares about wins and losses). More importantly, Jefferies has 67 strikeouts in 72 innings against just 14 walks and just 3 homers allowed.
A doubles team that hit homers: This is how Esquer described the Cal squad that is near the top in the Pac-12 in homers with 42 dingers on the year. 1st team all Pac-12 3rd baseman Lucas Erceg lead the balanced Cal power attack with 11 on the year. Nevertheless, Esquer likes his team to focus on making solid contacts instead of going for the big flies. It should be noted, for the casual college baseball fans, that NCAA switched the baseball this past offseason. A more professional like, flat-seam baseball is used this year. Scientifically, the flat-seam ball is known to travel about 20 feet further in the air. Additionally, the lower-seam makes it a bit more difficult to throw breaking balls for certain pitchers.
Program record in Pac-12 wins: With an 18-12 Pac-12 record, this year's Cal team has tied the most conference wins in school history. The 2015 Bears equaled a Bob Milano coached team in 1995 that also went 18-12 (in Pac-10).
Given how strong the Pac is again this year, this bode well for the Bears' chance to survive this Regional. Bears have played up to the competition a few times this year - playing their best (even though they only won 1 of 3) against UCLA and winning series from ASU, USC, and Oregon.
3 players on Pac-12 First Team: I have already mentioned Jefferies and Erceg. Joining them on the Pac-12 1st team is senior Chris Paul (who wears the number 6 since he's twice as good as the Clippers Point Guard CP3). Paul is 2nd on the team in averages with a 0.326 batting average. Amongst the regulars, his 0.408 on-base percentage is a team high. Leading the team in batting average with a 0.350 average is outfielder Devon Pearson, who earned a Pac-12 honorable mention honor.
Something on Coastal Carolina (from CalBears.com):
Scouting Report: Coastal Carolina
• Come in at 6-4 in their last 10 games
• Led offensively by junior outfielder Anthony Marks, who is batting .351 with a club-high 80 hits and 59 runs scored and sophomore utility player Michael Paez, who is hitting .330 at the dish with seven home runs, 41 RBI and a team-high 17 doubles.
• Friday’s projected starter, right-hander Alex Cunningham, is a perfect 6-0 on the year with a 2.56 ERA. The redshirt sophomore has started 10 games on the hill and has struck out 59 hitters in his 59.2 innings.
• Senior pitcher Austin Moore is 8-1 on the mound with a 3.36 ERA has thrown a team-high 61.2 innings
By the way, Coastal Carolina is in the same league as Campbell, the randomish NC team that the Bears played at late in the season on the road.
Cal Bears in the Polls:
D1Baseball.com: NR (dropped out of 25th in the last poll)
Coaches' Poll: 28
Baseball America: 25
Collegiate Baseball: 16
Coastal Carolina in the Polls
Coaches' Poll: 27
Baseball America: NR
Collegiate Baseball: NR
Regional Preview by D1Baseball.com:
Bears' pitching is top in the regional.
Best Defensive Player: Robbie Tenerowicz, 2b, California. If you’re looking for offense, this is probably the regional for you. But if you’re looking for amazing defensive plays, you might want to look elsewhere. Tenerowicz is the exception that rule. An elite defender, the middle infielder has tallied a .988 fielding percentage this season, committing just two errors in 104 chances.
Best Starting Rotation: California. The Golden Bears are the one team I still feel OK about if they get into the loser’s bracket this weekend. Daulton Jefferies and Ryan Mason are talented and experienced starting pitchers, while Matt Ladrech and Jeff Bain are quality arms capable of piecing together quality starts.
I still wouldn't want to get to the loser's bracket for the obvious reason, even if that was how the Bears did it back in the magical 2011 run.
Best bullpen: California. Coastal Carolina and A&M both have some solid arms out of the pen, but in terms of consistency, the Golden Bears get the edge. Erik Martinez has been a very stable arm out of the pen, Chris Muse-Fisher has a 2.27 ERA in 35.2 innings, Jeff Bain has thrown out of the pen in the past few weeks, and Dylan Nelson and Alex Schick are both quality arms that possess good numbers in more than 20 appearances this season.
Interestingly, D1Baseball.com said that Alex Cunningham (who CalBears.com project to be the starter) has some arm issue along with Coastal's No.2 pitcher. Their top homerun hitter is on the shelf as well.
The Chanticleers once again have a very solid club with coach Gary Gilmore leading the charge, but have some potentially huge holes to fill this weekend. Talented catcher Casey Schroeder, who’s both a consistent force behind the plate and a big-time hitter, remains injured with both a rib cage injury and muscle issues in his back, and could be out for the entire weekend.
On the mound, the Chanticleers could be in some trouble this weekend. Alex Cunningham remains on the shelf with some forearm issues, while Austin Kerr, the team’s No. 2 starting pitcher is having some elbow issues, and too, might not pitch this weekend. Those issues put some real pressure on guys like Bobby Holmes (2.43, 55.2) and Shane Sawczak (4.04, 59 IP) to have strong starts this weekend if they want to advance to a super regional.
Honestly, I can see this game go either way today. Actually, I probably won't be able to "see" the game via work obligations. Nevertheless, use the space below to discuss the Bears' play, coach Esquer's managerial moves, umpire's strike zone, etc.