For the first time since 1992, the Golden Bears are headed to Omaha, Nebraska, and the College World Series. They might not be the most talented team, or the best team, or the team with the most MLB players, but they are the first team to make it to Omaha since then. They clinched their spot with a 6-2 victory over Dallas Baptist.
Erik Johnson labored early on, and it looked like he’d find himself out of the game early for the third straight start. He gave up runs in the second and third innings, which helped Dallas Baptist stay in the game early. After that, Johnson turned on his “I’m the ace of this team” mode and there would no more offense for the Patriots. In all, he went only 6 innings, but he yielded just 3 hits and 4 walks in that effort. After the early hiccups, he allowed just two baserunners after the third inning.
I’ll admit that I have a ton of respect for guys like Jared Stafford, who get by with lesser stuff and just their control. He was sitting at about 80 and frequently went below that. Cal typically hits strike throwers hard, and he was no different. They touched him up for 5 runs in his 3.2 innings, with Chadd Krist delivering a two run home run in the first. Derek Campbell also delivered a double off of Stafford that allowed the Bears to take the early 5-2 advantage.
From there, Cal relied on their strong arms and defense to keep the game in their hands. Kevin Miller, Kyle Porter, and Matt Flemer provided three shutout innings in relief of Johnson, and the offense tacked on another run in the sixth to carry the team to a 6-2 win over the Patriots.
The Bears now have a chance to continue their incredible run at the College World Series. They’ll be the lowest ranked team there, but being underestimated and facing adversity hasn’t stopped Cal yet this season. For the first time, I can now safely talk about the team having a chance at being “national champions” and not feel like I’m terribly jinxing them. This team has a real shot; their not some Cinderella story that lucked into getting here. They’ve earned everything they’ve received.
This has been a great year, and the run is just getting started for this team. They’ve reached the pinnacle of their sport: Omaha. Now let’s celebrate it with them, and enjoy every second we have with this team. As the past has shown, it can be a long 19 years until you get back. Go Bears!