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Cal Baseball earns the final Pac-12 Tournament berth
Golden Bears close the regular season with a home sweep of Utah
California Golden Bears (28-25, 14-16 in Pac-12) will be streaking into the inaugural Pac-12 Baseball tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona next week. Bears will take a 6-game winning streak into their tournament-opening matchup against UCLA on Wednesday. The Pac-12 Baseball Tournament will be in a double-elimination format involving only the top-8 of the 11 Pac-12 Baseball programs.
A week after dominating an overmatched New Mexico team (RPI of 189), Cal did almost the same thing against a better but still just mediocre Utah team (RPI of 102). Cal’s RPI is now 79 after Saturday’s win.
The important thing is that by winning this final series of the regular season, Cal Bears earned an extension of their 2022 season into the Pac-12 Tournament. While it would require the Bears to shock the collegiate baseball world, Cal still has a path toward winning an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament (and thus making the dream alive to get back to the College World Series and maybe even win that).
Cal 13, Utah 1
An 8-run 5th inning allowed the Cal Bears to take game 1 of the series. Foreshadowing a monumental weekend in his final games at the Stu, senior 3B Dom Souto hit a grand slam in that key inning. Sophomore 1B Nathan Martorella extended his hitting streak to 16 games by going 2 for 3, including a solo homer. Senior C Cole Elvis went 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs.
The lone pitcher to start a game every week this season, RHP Joseph King scattered 8 hits while pitching 6.2 innings to improve to 5-3 on the season.
Cal 18, Utah 2
Cal clinched a Pac-12 Baseball tournament berth on their first try by winning game 2 of the series on Friday.
A four-run bottom of the 1st and a three-run bottom of the 2nd gave the Bears an early 7-0 lead and they just rolled from there. RHP Steven Zobac, who had yo-yo’ed between the roles of a starter and reliever this season, had a strong outing in striking out 11 in 6 innings pitched.
Offensively, seniors Dom Souto and Cole Elvis both went 3 for 5. Slugging RF Dylan Beavers took three free passes and went on to score 4 times. Not too surprisingly, everyone in the Cal lineup had at least a hit as the team combined for 18 hits to score 18 runs.
Cal 9, Utah 8
There was a lot more drama in Saturday afternoon’s regular season finale at the Stu. Cal and Utah both scored plenty of early runs as the Bears took a 7-4 lead at the end of three innings. Utes got one back in the 6th and three more in the 7th to take an 8-7 lead. Freshman Rodney Greene Jr. tied the game on a triple in the bottom of the 7th. Then, as much as he might not want his last game at the Stu to end, Dom Souto sent everyone home with the game-winning hit.
For these past two weekends, the Cal offense has been hot, scoring 11, 23, 8, 13, 18, and 9 runs during the current winning streak. We shall see how much they can keep this up in the nice hitting environment that is Scottsdale (where the Bears also opened the season, but at a different ballpark) but against better pitching.
The lack of consistency and depth of the pitching staff has been a concern all season for head coach Mike Neu’s squad, but the game of baseball is always a big equalizer that allows a “hot” team to pull off upsets.
Although Cal was the last team to make the tournament, the sweep gave them the 6th seed. The double-elimination tournament breaks the teams into two divisions. A team can win the tournament and that automatic berth in as few as 4 games or as many as 6 over the course of 5 days.
6th-seed Cal will face 3rd-seed UCLA first. 2nd-seed Oregon State, who is ranked No.2 in the country, and 7th Washington round out this half of the bracket. Top-seed Stanford, 8th-seed Arizona State, 4th-seed Oregon, and 5th-seed Arizona are in the other half. Pac-12 Networks will have all the games except for the championship game on Sunday which will be on ESPN2.
ROLL ON YOU BEARS!