Cal Baseball keeps their postseason dream alive with 10-3 win over No.9 Oregon
D1Baseball projected Cal as the last team in prior to this final series of the regular season
Cal Baseball (29-25, 15-14 in Pac-12 play) earned a pivotal win on Friday night to split their final regular-season series against No.9 Oregon Ducks. Saturday’s rubber game at noon PT on the Pac-12 Networks may not necessarily be a must-win for the Cal Bears, but a win and a third consecutive Pac-12 series win over a ranked opponent should make them feel a lot better about being named one of the 64 teams in the NCAA postseason field.
Cal’s postseason fate will be decided on Monday at 9 AM PT by the NCAA Baseball Selection show on ESPN2. The team should feel good about their chance of hearing their name called with a win on Saturday, they may have an uneasy Sunday without a Saturday victory.
While Cal’s RPI only rose from 89 to 82 after Friday’s results across collegiate baseball were considered by the computers, the humans at D1baseball had Cal as the 64th team in their latest projection on Thursday, prior to the Golden Bear’s final 3 games of the 2021 regular season.
Below are D1Baseball’s final 5 teams in as well as the next 5 teams out. I have added their results since Thursday, as well as any likely changes since then.
LAST FIVE IN:
60. Indiana (AT No.25 Maryland, Friday game postponed - DH Saturday, last game on Sunday) <—>
61. LSU (regular season over after SEC tournament loss to Georgia on Tuesday, DONE) <—>
62. North Carolina (ACC tournament consolation win over No.16 NC State on Friday, DONE) Up
63. Louisville (extra inning loss to Georgia Tech on Thursday, DONE) <—>
64. California (split first two games vs. No.9 Oregon, finale on Saturday) Up
FIRST FIVE OUT:
65. Alabama (Loss to No.13 Florida on Thursday, loss to No.4 Tennessee on Friday, eliminated in the SEC tourament, DONE) <—>
66. Long Beach State (win over UC Davis (14-40) on Friday, DH on Sat, finale on Sun) <—>
67. Baylor (eliminated from Big 12 tournament via Thursday loss to Kansas State, DONE) <—>
68. Oklahoma (eliminated from Big 12 tournament via Thursday loss to Texas, DONE, also 27-28 overall record) <—>
69. San Diego (split first two games at No.14 Gonzaga, finale on Saturday) Up
IF one has a lot of faith in the D1Baseball projection resembling whatever method that the NCAA committee will implement in this pandemic-effected season, where teams understandably prioritize local over stronger opponents in their non-conference games, then the Cal Bears are in a good spot going into Saturday (which is also the major impetus to write this post).
Cal’s Friday win may have allowed them to leap over Louisville. The teams directly behind Cal cannot improve their resume anymore with the lone exception of San Diego at Gonzaga, but they also had the most work to do.
Nonetheless, I still think Cal will believe that they need a Saturday win to make the postseason. I also do not have complete faith in the NCAA committee to include the Golde Bears even if Cal does manage to win on Saturday. Cal Baseball’s late-season surge meant that they would have a legitimate gripe if their 2021 season ends on Saturday. Let’s hope for a happy post on Monday afternoon rather than more laments about the NCAA doing Cal wrong.
[After finishing this post, I eventually found Friday’s ranking from D1Baseball that had the Cal Bears down to 67th after Thursday’s loss. Maybe the Bears cannot afford a loss on Saturday.]
Even ignoring the hard-to-ignore postseason implications, Cal showed a lot of fight in their come-from-behind victory in game 2 of this series on Friday night.
Oregon took the series opener 11-5 on Thursday night, continuing to punish Cal’s bullpen all night after knocking out Cal starter Josh White with 6 runs in 4 innings. The Ducks withstood the Bears’ charge with three homers (Beavers, Selma, and Ogans) to make it 8-5 at the end of the 7th inning with three late runs.
On Friday night, junior RHP Sean Sullivan was able to battle through a tough start, allowing 3-runs to the Ducks in T1. Finding a groove in what will hopefully not be his final game as a Cal Bar, Sullivan ended up striking out a season-high 9 batters in 6 innings.
Cal Bears again hit three homers as sophomore outfielder Dylan Beaver went yards twice (after hitting one on Thursday) to reclaim his home run lead in the Pac-12 with 18 dingers, which is also good for a tie for 7th most in Cal history for a single season. Senior 3rd baseman Quentin Selma also crushed a 3-run blast.
The loss by the Ducks meant that they cannot share the Pac-12 title with Arizona, which would have required them to sweep the Bears. With that in mind, Saturday’s finale might mean a whole lot more to the Cal Golden Bears than to the Oregon Ducks, who are projected to host a Regional regardless of the result.
Beavers, just a sophomore, talked to the Pac-12 Network after his big game. He confirmed that the Cal Bears believed that they need to win this weekend series to make a Regional (the team should leave the scoreboard watching to us bloggers/fans). The team has also adopted the “never give up” motto over the past few weeks.
Another milestone reached in this game was senior 2nd baseman Darren Baker earning his 200th collegiate hit. It is great that Baker was able to reach this plateau despite a significantly shorter junior season last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting the season down.
Appropriately, Baker slashed a single to reach this nice round number. Even more impressively for his 2021 season, Darren Baker has reached base in 58 of the 59 games played this season thus far. Baker has also played a very solid 2nd base as well as being one of the leaders on the squad.
For Saturday, Cal junior RHP Grant Holman (1-3, 3.61) will look to bounce back from a tough game at UCLA last Sunday. Holman, still the most likely Cal Bear to first hear his name called in the 2021 MLB Draft this July (maybe even as early as the first two rounds), needs to keep this mighty Ducks offense in check. The lefty-loaded Cal Bears lineup will love to keep their home run barrage going against Oregon RHP starter Brett Walker (6-2, 3.84).
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!