A week after taking a pivotal game down in Westwood from the still top ranked UCLA Bruins team, California Golden Bears continued to make a strong claim for a postseason spot with a 4 win week (in 5 games), including 2 out of 3 against a Oregon Ducks team that also has postseason ambition and a win over a top 25 ranked BYU Cougars (Cal’s 2nd win of the season against BYU).
Two of these games were extremely close that they easily could have gone the other way. Nonetheless, the 4 victories certainly keep the Bears in a better postseason position than if they only got 2 wins. Below are quick recaps of those games.
Cal 12, Sacramento State 4
Despite a 26-14 record, Sacramento State is considered a bad team by the computers, with a RPI ranking of 110. Cal Baseball suffered a 6-0 loss to Sacramento State earlier this season, but was able to get revenge in this Tuesday night game.
Typical co-closer Sean Sullivan got the start to “open” this game by tossing a scoreless inning. Cal promptly scored 6 runs in B1 to take the lead. Bears got through this game by giving innings to a bunch of inexperienced pitchers, with lefty Lucas Gather getting the win by throwing 2 innings.
Offensively, both Andrew Vaughn and Korey Lee got 3 hits apiece. Lee, DHing rather than catching, got 4 RBI to lead the team. Everyone in the lineup got at least a hit.
Bears hit 4 homers in this game with those coming from Korey Lee, Max Flower, Sam Wezniak, and Cole Elvis.
Cal 8, Oregon 7
Head coach Mike Neu went away from the usual script of using Arman Sabouri as the opener and then Sam Stoutenborough as the bulk pitcher on Friday. Sabouri started this game again but went 3 innings before giving way to Rogelio Reyes for 3 innings.
Grant Holman hit an early homer for the Bears, but Ducks’ Gabe Mathews hit 2 homers for 3 RBIs.
Sabouri kept the Ducks scoreless, but Reyes gave up 3 runs. Typically reliable reliever Sean Sullivan gave up 4 runs in 1.1 inning (particularly 3 in T8 to give up the lead) to set the stage for some late Cal baseball magic.
Trailing 7-8 heading in B9, Cal 3rd baseman Quentin Selma hit a no doubter to tie the game. After Andrew Vaughn made a shocking out (yes, he reaches on base more often than not), Korey Lee sent the crowd home with a no doubt bomb to the top of the RSF for a dramatic walk-off win.
Cal 10, Oregon 5
Jared Horn had another great outing to continue his hot month of pitching. The Cal junior pitched 8 innings, striking out 8 while giving up just 2 earned runs (4 runs total) while pitching the bulk of the game with a huge lead. Horn just gave up 5 hits and 1 walk in 8 innings of work.
For the season, Horn is now 4-1 with an ERA of 1.71 and a fantastic WHIP of 0.87.
Bears scored 2 runs in the 2nd and 6 runs in the 3rd to take control of this game without the benefit of a homer. Everyone in the lineup got at least one hit with Grant Holman leading the way with 3 hits.
Cal 4, Oregon 12
Grant Holman was cruising on the mound for the Bears on Sunday until the 5th inning. Ducks scored 7 runs in the 5th inning to take control of this game. The big hit was Ducks’ Johnny DeLuca hitting a grand slam that knocked Holman out of the game.
The prolific Cal offense was not able to score enough runs to comeback, unfortunately. Late solo homers from Cal’s DH John Lagattuta and 3B Quentin Selma were not enough.
Cal 3, BYU 2
Cal’s first win of the season came against BYU from Tempe, Arizona in game number 4. Bears won that one 10-6. Since then, BYU has recently ascended to No.25 in the coaches’ poll. That’s no problem for the Cal Bears in earning their 2nd win over the Cougars on Monday.
Sam Stoutenborough, who apparently was sick earlier this weekend, got his first start of his college career and went 5.1 solid innings while giving up just 2 runs. Right after BYU went ahead in the game with 2 runs in T5, Bears answered right back with backup catcher Cole Elvis hitting a homer follow by normal catcher (but DH for the game) Korey Lee driving home Andrew Vaughn for the tie.
Quentin Selma had the game winning double in B7 to break the tie. Bears also got a key inning of relief from Carson Olson in the 8th before Arman Sabouri pitched a perfect 9th for his 4th save.
Andrew Vaughn Update:
Andrew Vaughn was kept inside the park all week, but still put up great numbers nontheless in setting the table for Korey Lee hitting behind him.
Vaughn’s numbers for the week:
9 for 17, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 5 R, 3 RBI, 1 SF, 3 Doubles
0.384/0.535/0.696 with 11 homers, 37 runs, 37 RBI - 41 BB, 5 HBP to just 26 K
Keith Law of ESPN (ESPN Insider only article) has Vaughn as the 2nd best 2019 MLB Draft prospect behind only Oregon State Beavers’ catcher Adley Rutschman. Again noting how Vaughn being a short (5 foot 10), right handed first baseman would typically make him a non-prospect, his numbers in 2019 is still so impressive that Andrew Vaughn has got to be considered one of the safest bats in the draft.
Remember that RPI is not an exact science, particularly for college baseball. The Pac-12 have the top 3 teams (UCLA, Oregon State, Stanford) in the human poll but not in the RPI goes to show that the Cal Bears should be even better ranked by the NCAA selection committee than what their RPI would indicate.
Cal was 40th in the RPI last week, after dropping some to around 47th in RPI due to the schedule (the game against Sacramento State did more harm than good), Bears are now sitting at the 38th spot after beating BYU on Monday.
By the way, BYU is 33rd in RPI while Oregon is just behind the Bears at 43rd.
Even though they are road games, expect Cal’s RPI number to drop even if they sweep the Utah Utes (12-25) this weekend. Utah’s RPI is 116th in the country.
There are 13 games left in the regular season (barring rain outs).
Golden Bears visit Salt Lake City for the next to last road trip of the year, before a short trip to San Francisco on next Tuesday to play USF (24-20 but a RPI of 117 in a potential trap game).
Cal will host two ranked opponents in David Esquer’s Stanford (ranked 3rd in the country in the human poll but 16th in the RPI) and Arizona State (ranked 22nd in the human poll but 40th in the RPI) in the following two weekends.
The season will end on the weekend of May 23rd-25th from Seattle against the Washington Huskies (52nd in the PRI currently).
The schedule is definitely tough enough to provide ample opportunities for the Cal Bears to not just improve their RPI numbers but possibly earn a top-25 spot in the human polls. The RPI number will yo-yo down this next week even if the Bears sweep all 4 games, but Cal fans should feel pretty good about the Bears’ postseason chance unless they drop 3 or 4 of these next 4 road games against bad but dangerous teams.