Where we left off, the team was still seeking reinstatement, with little hope. They were making the most of their final opportunity together, as they had started the year 13-5 with several impressive victories, including one over Rice. But the formidable Pac-10 awaited; how would the Bears respond?
It all started well. The Bears swept Washington State and took 2 out of 3 from USC, taking the Pac-10 lead early at 5-1. They also went 1-1 in midweek games against San Francisco and Pacific. A series against a ranked Arizona foe awaited.
The odds against the return of Cal baseball were high. First of all, the administration wasn’t communicating and did not send a message to the donors on the money necessary for reinstatement. Second, the 10 million dollar goal they eventually gave was nearly unattainable. 10 million dollars is a lot of money, folks, especially when the program in question has had major problems getting fans in seats. There were updates that did provide room for optimism, but at the time I still felt like the return was 50% at best. That’s when the scouting meeting in Arizona took place.
The fact that the program was reinstated is a credit to the strength of the Cal community, as well as the strength of the few that organized Save Cal Baseball. The nation got to see what happened when Golden Bears get together, and that’s raise 10 million to continue these young men’s dreams. The team was back for the forseeable future; we could all relax a little.
Whatever the reason, the Bears quality of play decreased. It started by Arizona taking 2 out 3, but a sweep by Washington assuaged any concerns. But the offense began struggling to scratch across runs. Arizona State swept Cal at Evans Diamond. The team had to rely on a pair of walk-offs to take down a poor Oregon team 2 out of 3. They lost a series to UCLA. The team’s early play allowed them to have a 13-11 conference record entering the closing series against Stanford, but the pitching outside of Erik Johnson and Justin Jones was struggling, and the offense wasn’t scoring runs or generating opportunities. Tony Renda and Chadd Krist had to do everything, and that’s too much a load to place on those two.
The team hit rock bottom against the Cardinal. A good showing would have earned them a #2 seed. A bad one might have left the team on the outside looking in of the tournament. Erik Johnson pitched an absolute gem on Friday, but luck favored Stanford as they won 3-2 despite being outplayed. In Game 1 of a doubleheader, Justin Jones battled but got no support as the Bears fell 4-2. In what might have saved their season, Game 2 rained out while the team trailed big (I think it was 7-1?) because of a poor Dixon Anderson outing. Instead of a complete sweep, the team just dropped two and got no result of the third.
Cal finished the regular season 31-20, and 13-13 in Pac-10 play. It was tough to call that disappointing, but the way the team closed left me pessimistic about their chances moving forward. We’ll see how these slumping Bears fared in the postseason next time around. Go Bears!