The Golden Bears started the season ranked nationally and with plenty of talent on the roster. The only question was whether they could avoid distractions and just get focused on playing baseball. The question, at least early on, is yes as the team has come out of the gates hot, with a 13-5 record. How have the Bears gotten there?
The Bears opened the season with a two game set against future Pac-12 opponent Utah, and a single game against arch-rival Stanford. Both games of the doubleheader went in favor of California, as they disposed of the Utes easily 7-0 and then 6-5 on an Andrew Knapp pinch-hit walk off single. In the match-up at Stanford, Cal fell behind early 3-0 and could not get enough offense, falling 3-2. With that 2-1 start, the Bears took the road for a pair of tournaments.
In the Caravelle Resort’s Tournament, the Bears swept through Coastal Carolina, NC State, and Kansas State by the combined score of 29-1. The pitching, as has been the case all year, was stellar. Next up in the tournament slate was the University of San Diego Tournament. Playing the host Torreros in the opener, the Bears won 6-2 behind Marcus Semien’s grand slam in the second inning and solid pitching from Dixon Anderson. But the tournament quickly went downhill, as the Bears dropped 3 straight to Oklahoma, San Diego State, and Connecticut by a combined 4 runs. They would recover in the final game, thrashing Santa Clara 20-5.
In the final tournament, the Bears played in the Cal Baseball Classic, in the Giants AT&T Park. Cal had to slip by UL Lafayette in the first game 7-6, as the Bears avoided a collapse from a 7-2 lead. The Bears would then take on perennial baseball power Rice. In an epic game, Cal won on a squeeze from freshman Derek Campbell in the fifteenth inning. Kevin Miller and Kyle Porter were outstanding in relief of Justin Jones, throwing a combined 11 innings of 2 hit ball to keep the Bears in the game and give them a chance to win the extra inning game. Cal closed the tourney with a 6-1 victory over the 49ers of Long Beach State.
Semien looked to continue his home run heroics against San Francisco with a 3 run shot to tie it up in the ninth, but it was not enough as the Dons took the game on a bases loaded RBI single in the eleventh inning. The Bears had a runner on third but stranded him to lose the game. Playing a Big 10 Ohio State team, the Bears took both games of the series in convincing fashion, 4-0 and 11-1. Now ranked #16 in the country, the Bears played their final game prior to conference play against Nevada. Avenging football, Kevin Miller twirled a shutout with a little help in a 2-0 victory.
Looking ahead, the Bears take on Washington State in a 3 game set to officially open up conference play. At 13-5 and ranked #16 in the country, this is a Cal team flying high coming into Pac-10 play. The pitching staff has been absolutely dominant, posting a 2.10 ERA. The hitting has been hit or miss, but it’s still a solid offensive unit. Cal is certainly a dangerous team heading forward and should be a threat come tournament time. However, this team still will have to earn their way in. Go Bears!