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Cal Baseball opens Pac-12 tourney with a 4-1 win over UCLA
Golden Bears will face No.2 Oregon State (2nd seed in Pac-12 but No.2 in the country in human and computer polls) on Thursday night's "Pac-12 After Dark"
In a throwback to the 2022 season opener at a different venue in Scottsdale, Arizona for the MLB4 Tournament, Cal Baseball won against a quality opponent behind exception pitching from Josh White. White threw seven scoreless innings and repeatedly got out of jams in his first start since early April.
In a game that did not end until 1:30 AM PT (4:30 AM PT where yours truly resides), Cal Bears defeated UCLA Bruins by a 4-1 result. Cal (29-25) has now won seven straight games.
Knowing that they will need to win the automatic bid to make the NCAA tournament this year, Cal played Wednesday night’s opener like it was a must-win. Golden Bears essentially need to stay in the winner’s bracket in this double-elimination tournament to have enough pitching to survive and win the inaugural Pac-12 Baseball Tournament.
UCLA (35-21) is a team that is ranked from 8th to 25th on the various human polls but just in the 50s in the RPI. Rather than using one of their regular starters for this game, UCLA opted to do a bullpen game against the Bears.
Cal put the first run on the board in the top of the 3rd.
Dylan Beavers’ Pac-12 best 17th homer is a bit unconventional. The likely MLB Draft 1st round pick showcased his speed on an inside-the-park homer to give Cal a 1-0 lead.
In the next inning, freshman Rodney Green Jr. just hit the ball over the rightfield fence for his 6th dinger of the season.
In their next inning, Cal Bears finally put up a crooked number by scoring two runs. Freshman Caleb Lomavita got an RBI single and Keshawn Ogans followed with a sacrifice fly. Cal shortstop Ogans has really picked up his offense this season and he went 3 for 3 in this game.
1st baseman Nathan Martorella only went 1 for 5 but that was enough to extend his hitting streak to 19-games, tying the feat of Mark Canha back in 2009.
The player-of-the-game for Cal was clearly Josh White, who regained the early season composure that had made him a borderline top-100 prospect in this summer’s MLB Draft. White has struggled mightily since the start of Pac-12 play and Cal head coach Mike Neu had been creative in trying him as a bulk reliever or closer with mixed results.
White was able to get timely strikeouts to hold the Bruins scoreless despite seven hits and four walks. He did throw around 115 pitches, however, and likely will not be available again in this Pac-12 tournament until possibly Sunday’s championship game.
Mike Neu really signaled how this was a must-win game by using his most consistent starter, Joseph King, to close out the last two innings of this game. King got the job done despite allowing a run. He will hopefully be ready to start on Saturday, but that would require Cal to either win tonight against Oregon State (the much-preferred outcome, of course) or win an elimination game on Friday.
The potent Cal offense has carried the team in this current 7-game winning streak. Bears were overly aggressive on the basepath in this game, however, having four runners thrown out at second base either on steal attempts or while trying to take an extra base. Cal ran themselves out of a potential larger inning in the fourth with two runners thrown out on the bases around the Green Jr. homer.
Golden Bears will next face Oregon State Beavers on Thursday night’s Pac-12 After Dark. Oregon State defeated Washington 13-8. Cal did win one of three at Oregon State during the regular season and a Thursday night win over the No.2 team in the country by RPI will surely improve Cal’s postseason resume.
Steven Zobac will likely start this game, and he can hopefully go deep into this game. Mike Neu might need to get creative with getting innings out of his pitchers if Cal got to play on Friday or play two games on Saturday. Then again, the Cal Baseball SID has shown Cal’s ingenuity in writing his postgame recap atop a Whataburger sign early this morning.
In the other half of the bracket, top-seed Stanford won 6-3 over Arizona State while Arizona got an 8-6 win over Oregon.
Baseball is a wacky enough game on its own. We shall see if Cal can find a way to continue this winning streak by any means possible.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!