Cal Baseball (29-19, 14-13 in Pac-12) has 6 more road games to make claim for a NCAA postseason spot
We are down to the final two weeks of regular season college baseball action. Unlike other Power-Five conferences that has a conference tournament next week, Pac-12 teams will simply play out the regular season schedule for these last two weeks. Thanks to an odd number of conference teams, this week is the Golden Bears’ turn to play the non-conference series. Cal Bears will visit the site of the annual College World Series in TD Ameritrade Park from Omaha, Nebraska to face a decent (but not great) Creighton Blue Jays team. Of course, the Bears hope to be back in Omaha again next month, but plenty of work (and probably some luck) is needed before now and then.
Given how baseball results are dependent on the pitching depth of a team (especially those midweek non-conference games), I don’t agree that the traditional RPI is anywhere close to being a great indicator of a team’s success that season. Unfortunately, the college baseball RPI is still one of the few metrics used by the selection committee.
After a huge 3 game sweep of the Arizona Wildcats, who were on the NCAA bubble coming into the series, Cal Bears were able to boost their RPI from the mid-90s to 78. This weekend, Bears will take on Creighton who has a RPI of 62. While these road games will obviously not be easy, the RPI used by college baseball does weigh road games heavier than their counterpart in college basketball. Bears can improve on their 7-8 road record in these final 6 road games. For the Pac-12 regular season finale next week, the Bears will visit Arizona State, who has a RPI of only 118. Of course, that series is no gimme as the Bears did drop two painful games to the similarly ranked University of Southern California team two weeks ago on the road.
For the 64 postseason spots, 31 will go to automatic qualifiers. Golden Bears hope to grab one of those other 33 at-large bids.
Currently only 3 Pac-12 teams are locks for the postseason - the top 10 RPI ranked Stanford and Oregon State (both ranked in the top 3 in human polls) to go with a top-25 human poll ranked UCLA (RPI of 37). Arizona (RPI of 43 even after losing 3 to Cal), Washington (RPI of 73) and Cal are the only other schools even in the conversation. For what its worth, the Bears got swept by Oregon State, took 1 of 3 from Stanford (on the road), took 2 of 3 from UCLA, took 2 of 3 from Washington, and swept Arizona. Barring a swept by ASU next week, the Golden Bears are basically locked into the 5th spot in the Pac-12 standings behind Stanford, Oregon State, UCLA, and Washington but ahead of Arizona.
The three ranked Pac-12 teams in the top-25 are all much better ranked in the human polls than the RPI in 2018. The discrepancy between the human and computer poll is so much that the Golden Bears are receiving votes in a human poll such as the NCBWA (which means that Cal is at least in the top 50).
For the season, the Cal Bears are 1-6 vs. RPI top 25 teams (Stanford and Oregon State), 6-1 vs. RPI (26-50) teams (UCLA, Arizona), 3-5 vs. RPI 51-100, 10-7 vs. RPI 101-200 (too many midweek losses here), and 9-0 vs. RPI of 200+.
Nonetheless, the best that the Bears can do now is to just keep on winning. This is what D1Baseball.com has to say about the Bears after the Saturday series clinching win over Arizona last week:
At 13-13 in the Pac-12 and No. 85 in the RPI, the Bears still have a lot of work to do to get back into at-large position, but this weekend was a big step in that direction.
In the latest projected postseason field from D1Baseball, Washington overtook Arizona for the last spot in the field of 64. Golden Bears are nowhere to be found (they only lists the first 5 out). Then again, RPI merely has Washington at 5 spots ahead of the Bears, so there is still a chance.
More from D1Baseball, whose writer Kendall Roger definitely has seen a few Cal games this year and has had some glowing tweets about Andrew Vaughn and Tanner Dodson.
Comment From Tim
I probably don’t want to hear the answer to this one, but does Cal have an outside shot of making the tournament? Would love to see those bats in a regional…
Tim — Roll the final two weekends and get that RPI around 50-60, and the Golden Bears could have a chance to get in for sure. They are like Arizona for me. They’ll sweep someone and impress you, then take a huge step back. They need to show consistency these final two weeks.
Bears need to go 4-2 in these final 6 games to get in the postseason conversation, but more realistically need to go 5-1 or 6-0 to force their way into the field of 64.
Knowing that they need to win the series last weekend, Cal head coach Mike Neu is managing like every game is a must-win, starting with using closer Tanner Dodson for a 3 inning save on the series opener last Friday.
Cal 9, Arizona 3
Cal senior Matt Ladrech scattered 9 hits and 3 walks to allow just 1 run in 5 innings to improve to 7-4 on the year. Bears tagged on two big insurance runs in the 5th to go up 4-1, Neu still felt the need to bring in Dodson to start the 7th in a 4-2 game. Sam Wezniak’s 3-run homer in B7 gave the Bears a comfortable lead. Dodson finished the game for a Cal single season record 11th save.
Tanner Dodson, Sam Wezniak, and Jeffrey Mitchell Jr all had 2 hits apiece.
Cal 16, Arizona 6
Despite the final score, this game started with Arizona putting up a 4-spot in T3 in taking advantage of a costly Jared Horn error (only 2 of the 4 runs are earned). The Bears will not quit, however. In B3, Jonah Davis answered with a grand slam while Max Flower followed with a go-ahead homer. Arizona went ahead with 2-runs in T6 against Arman Sabouri, who pitched 5 innings in relief of Horn. That lead was once again brief as the Bears tied the game, then Andrew Vaughn untied it with a 3-run homer. It was all Cal in the last 3 innings to tag on an addition 7 runs.
Andrew Vaughn, Max Flower, and Ripken Reyes all had 3 hits apiece.
Here is Jonah Davis’ “oppo” grand slam:
Here is Vaughn’s homerun No.22:
Cal 12, Arizona 11
While the Bears nearly blew this game, this finale was all Cal Bears early as they jumped out to a 12-3 lead after 6 innings with a pair of 6-run innings in the 3rd and 6th, all without the benefit of a homer. Bears gave Arizona’s Juan Aguilar (6-1) his first loss of the year. Aaron Shortridge improves to 4-2 on the year with a quality start (6 IP, 3 earned runs). By allowing senior (and former closer) Erik Martinez to close out this game, the Wildcats got really really close (thanks to another Cal error), but the must needed win was the Bears’ on Senior Day.
Max Flower is the only Bear to have 3 hits as Tyrus Greene and Andrew Vaughn only had 2.
Sophomore Ripken Reyes appears to have surpassed freshman Darren Baker for the starting 2nd base job in the past 5 games (there could also be an injury unbeknownst to me). With so many runs scored, everyone in the lineup was mashing all weekend long. Bears batted 0.339 as a team for the 3-game series. DH Jeffrey Mitchell and Reyes are the only two regulars in the starting lineup to go hitless in 2 of the 3 games.
For the year, Andrew Vaughn is now hitting 0.410/0.537/0.854 with 22 homers and 57 RBI. Vaughn’s great season is overshadowing Jonah Davis’ 0.337/0.467/0.663 with 14 homers and 55 RBI campaign.
Bears will take on the Creighton Blue Jays (32-15, 8-9 in Big East) from the Big East this weekend. Creighton are in the midst of a 6 game winning streak. They are 13-5 at home.
There are live stream links for all 3 games (links are below on the game time).
Thursday, 4:30 p.m. PT
Cal: LHP Matt Ladrech (7-4, 5.05 ERA)
Creighton: RHP Ryan Tapani (9-1, 2.25 ERA)
Friday, 4:30 p.m. PT
Cal: RHP Jared Horn (5-5, 6.04 ERA)
Creighton: RHP Mitch Ragan (5-4, 3.79 ERA)
Saturday, 10 a.m. PT
Cal: RHP Aaron Shortridge (4-2, 2.92)
Creighton: LHP Preston Church (5-4, 4.50 ERA)
After the highs of wrapping up the regular home schedule with a big 3 game sweep of Arizona, the Cal Golden Bears got to maintain that emotional high and win this series. Every game is essentially a must-win elimination game now...essentially like a month from now should the Bears be so lucky to make a return trip to Omaha.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!
Cal Softball in Athens Regional with No.7 Georgia, Harvard, and Northwestern
To the surprise of no one, it was announced on Sunday that the Cal Bears (34-19, 7-16 in Pac-12) are going dancing...in Athens, Georgia. Check out the fun video below.
Here is the schedule for the action this weekend. All the games will be on WatchESPN and on TV as well.
Friday: 9 AM PT, Cal vs. Northwestern on ESPNU
Game 3: 11:30 AM PT, winners from Friday
Game 4: 2 PM PT, elimination game for losers of Friday
Game 5: 4:30 PM PT, elimination game for loser of game 3 and winner of game 4
Game 6: 9 AM PT - Regional Championship
Game 7 (if necessary): 11:30 AM PT
Bears will open against the Northwestern Wildcats (36-17, 14-8 in Big 10), who may or may not be distracted by their alum Meghan Markle marrying into the Royal Family this weekend. Bears and the Wildcats played an non-conference game last year that went 3-2 in favor of the directional school - many of the same players will be around for this one.
ICYMI: Bears Renew Rivalries at the NCAA Regional— Cal Softball (@CalSB) May 17, 2018
Read more: https://t.co/IUCKbw0JTS
More on Northwestern:
Paced by Sabrina Rabin’s .379 batting average, the Wildcats outscored its opponents 324-229. Rabin’s 72 team-leading hits, is supported by Rachel Lewis (.357) and Morgan Nelson (.342) who’ve combined for 30 homer this season. In the circle, the Bears could see Kenna Wilkey (3.17, 18-6) or Morgan Newport (3.52, 14-7) who’ve 269 hits and retired 215 batters at the plate.
The host Georgia Bulldogs (43-11, 16-8 in SEC) are clearly the favorite of the regional. More on them:
The Bulldogs (43-11, 16-8 SEC) are nearly as battle-tested as the Bears with a conference slate led by top-25 opponents. Their success through the year lifted head coach Lu Harris-Champer to earn the conference’s Coach of the Year honor and found Cortni Emanuel (.439), Alyssa Di Carlo (.366) and pitcher Brittany Gray (0.48, 16-1) on the all-conference first team. Opponents’ offensive have been extremely limited by the Bulldogs who have only allowed 107 runs and .178 clip at the plate. But, UGA’s offense has soared with a collective batting average of .335 and 326 runs scored. Among the pitching staff, Mary Wilson-Avant (1.66, 9-3) and Kylie Bass (1.82, 13-3) could also make appearances.
The other school in the regional is this school that’s sometimes called “the Cal of the East Coast” - the Harvard Crimson (24-16, 14-7 in Ivy League).
The Crimson (24-16, 14-7 ) is riding high after earning the program’s seventh Ivy League title over the weekend, downing Dartmouth in back-to-back games 6-4 and 2-1, to earn an automatic bid to the post season. Harvard is led by Ivy League Pitcher of the Year Katie Duncan who holds a 2.75 ERA and 15-9 win-loss record. The Crimson also claimed seven spots on the all-conference list, including short stop Rhianna Rich who leads the team with a .442 batting average, 42 runs and 57 hits. Even with such impressive numbers, Harvard plays things close only outscoring opponents 194-164 and allowing a .268 average, while combining for .287 showing at the plate.
For the Cal Bears, they are a solid if not great team in 2018. At the top of the lineup, senior Jazmyn Jackson (0.326 BA, 0.369 OBP) and junior Lindsay Rood (0.339 BA, 0.406 OBP) are speedy on-base machines. Both will be aggressive on the base path daring their opponents to make the perfect defensive plays. Bears have more pop in the middle of the lineup with senior Kobie Pettis (10 doubles, 5 homers), freshman Mikayla Coehlo (team best 6 homers), and sophomore Bradie Fillmore (5 homers).
The strength of this year’s team is in the circle with the tandem of Kamalani Dung (first year with the Bears after transferring from Fresno State) and Zoe Conley (second year with the Bears after transferring from CSUN). Dung (2.03 ERA, 18-5 record), who overtaken the first starter spot from Conley, has 171 K in 152 IP. Conley (2.24, 16-12, and a Cal single season record high 7 saves...softball pitchers used to finish their games often) has 178 K in 184.2 IP. Both pitchers are not exactly overpowering, but are wily and experienced to take on anyone, after the grueling gauntlet that is Pac-12 play.
Bears have gone 2-2 in the past two NCAA Regionals, both at a SEC school. Bears beat Texas State and Notre Dame twice, before falling twice to Alabama and Auburn, in 2016 and 2017, respectively. 2012 is the last time that the Bears have made it to the College World Series in Oklahoma State; that year, the Bears hosted the Regional.
Despite the long odds, you can never count Diane Ninemire’s Bears out. Cal has battled top teams in the country in Oregon and UCLA hard in the past two weeks (despite going 0-6 to close out the regular season). With a little bit of luck on their side, the Golden Bears may surprise the softball world from SEC country. Depending on how well the Bears are doing, we may have more Cal Softball recap/preview/gamethread this weekend here on CGB.