Pac-12 Baseball Tournament berth on the line when Cal hosts Utah in season-ending series
Cal lead Utah by a game for the final tournament berth entering the series
Cal Baseball is coming off a weekend where they absolutely dominated New Mexico for the entire series, outscoring the Lobos 42-5 over the three games. Unfortunately, because New Mexico has been quite bad this year, Cal’s RPI remained in the 80s (if not dropped a tiny bit) over the weekend. Still, with the Pac-12 automatic berth tied to the brand new Baseball Tournament, Cal can dream about running the table in Scottsdale (or almost doing so since it is a double-elimination tournament) to make the 64-team NCAA tournament. Of course, the Golden Bears need to make the tournament first by finishing in the top-8 in the conference of 11 teams (Colorado does not have baseball).
Cal (25-25, 11-16 in Pac-12) will host Utah (25-24-1, 10-17 in Pac-12) to conclude the regular season. Golden Bears will look to clinch the final berth in the inaugural Pac-12 Baseball Tournament by winning this series. Cal has a one-game lead going to this series.
Pac-12 Baseball Standings - conference record (season record)
Oregon State 19-8 (40-11)
Stanford 18-9 (33-14)
UCLA 17-10 (33-18)
Arizona 16-11 (35-18)
Oregon 15-12 (31-21)
Arizona State 13-14 (25-27)
Washington 14-16 (25-24)
Cal 11-16 (25-25)
Utah 10-17 (25-24-1)
Washington State 9-18 (23-26)
USC 8-19 (24-25)
Should Cal only win two out of the three and Washington State sweep the weekend, Cal will be tied with Washington State. Of course, should Washington State sweep the series vs. Arizona State (and Cal only win two), it will actually be a three-way tie between the three schools. I cannot find any place that explicitly states just what the tiebreakers are for the Pac-12 Baseball Tournament.
Cal won 2 out 3 over Washington State but only 1 out 3 over Arizona State.
The Utes are coming off 9 straight losses prior to their Tuesday non-conference midweek game vs. BYU. Those 9 losses included two to Oregon State and three to Stanford (both top-10 quality teams) but also three to Arizona State.
With home-field advantage and the need to sweep the series, I have high expectations for this weekend from head coach Mike Neu’s squad.
Regardless of what happens, this will most likely be the final weekend for Cal fans to watch standout Dylan Beavers play in a Cal uniform. The expected mid-to-late first-round pick this summer in the 2022 MLB Draft will almost certainly turn pro if drafted that high.
Similar to how Andrew Vaughn surprised everyone by blossoming into a Golden Spikes winner at Cal, Dylan Beavers also was not much of a prospect out of high school. Similar to Vaughn (who tossed a few innings in his freshman year), they both were recruited as two-way players.
Beavers is now a junior at Cal and considered one of the top sluggers in the country. He led the Pac-12 in home runs last season with 18 and entered 2022 as a consensus preseason All-American. He is projected by most experts as a first-round pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball amateur draft.
Not bad for a guy who many predicted wouldn't hit at all in college.
Beavers was projected by most to be a pitcher in college. Tall and lanky with a fastball in the low 90s, Beavers looked the part of a college pitcher. Never mind that he derived much more enjoyment from hitting. He was told repeatedly he would be a pitcher in college.
Cal head coach Mike Neu wasn't in such a hurry to pinhole Beavers' role once he got to Berkeley.
"We thought he was going to do both," Neu said. "We obviously knew he was super athletic and had a really good arm, and was also a really good hitter in high school. But at the time if you asked what I thought he'd end up being, I honestly would have said we'll give him a chance to do both, but I think he has a chance to be really good on the mound."
Interestingly, Beavers and Vaughn have not officially met…yet.
And that may be where the similarities start and stop between the two players. Vaughn was a right-handed power hitting first baseman/designated hitter while Beavers is a left-handed hitting outfielder who also has speed in his game. Vaughn was also more of a polished hitter in college; Beavers likely still has more room to improve while he focuses only on hitting.
"Dylan probably has more upside at this point in his career than Vaughn did, but Vaughn had a higher floor," Neu said. "Vaughn was already a very polished player. Dylan has a long way to go to be that polished, but he has a huge upside. He just started in a different place than Vaughn. As he continues to get more at-bats, he's going to continue to get better and better. There are some big gains out there for him."
Beavers and Vaughn have never met, at least not formally. But when Beavers drove up to Berkeley for a prospects camp while in high school, Vaughn served as the home plate umpire while Beavers pitched.
"Everyone has seen what Vaughn has done. He is someone everyone in our program aspires to be," Beavers said. "Everyone wants to play that well and help the team win like that. He was the most feared hitter in college baseball. That's always someone who I look up to."
Some of the national MLB draft pundits have compared Beavers to former NL MVP Christian Yelich. On the season, Beavers have 16 long balls for 35 in his Cal career. Just for the sake of Beavers getting more games to move up the Cal all-time homerun list, I hope the Golden Bears will find a way to extend their season beyond this one, and miraculously beyond the next one.