SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Here are the dry logistics:
On Sunday night, the Cal baseball team beat Dallas Baptist, 6-2, to advance to the College World Series. The game took two hours and 41 minutes. Erik Johnson was the winning pitcher for the Bears and catcher Chadd Krist hit a two-run home run.
This will be the Bears’ first CWS appearance since 1992, and they will play the winner of Virginia and UC Irvine. Those are the things you need to know, but those are just words on a page and stats from the box score.
This is what happened:
The crowd at Stephen Schott Stadium, overflowing into the walkways and peering through the gaps in the outfield fence, leapt to its feet when Krist’s homer put Cal up, 2-0, in the bottom of the first and started to believe, right then and there, that maybe this was really happening.
“I’m looking at the box score so I can believe it,” Cal coach David Esquer said. “It’s on paper.”
The Cal bench — sporting their baseball caps backward in the first inning for a rally they did not, nor would ever, need — cheered its lungs raw for a new hero, Derek Campbell.
The freshman came into the game hitting .227 and left it with three more hits, two more runs and one more day he will remember for the rest of his life.
“Stay hot, Derek,” yelled one woman in the stands. He did, with veins running ice cold.
On the mound, Johnson by no means had his best stuff. He fell behind batters early and walked four in six innings. When it was 4-2 Cal in the fourth, the contest by no means felt decided. But Johnson did enough and he made pitches when it counted, like in the sixth when he struck out Kenny Hatcher to strand two runners on base.
And that was all the Bears needed.
Near the end of Johnson’s night, pitcher Justin Jones, his arm in a bright blue sling because of a bicep injury incurred the night before, greeted him in the dugout with an elaborate one-armed handshake as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” played over the sound system. No mountain, indeed.
The word “destiny” will be thrown around a lot in the coming week. Some believe in that, some don’t. But one way or another, Cal proved that luck is a very real thing.
They were lucky to draw Rice’s regional, a team they knew they could beat. They were lucky to survive lightning delays and injuries to Jones and Tony Renda. On the field, they scored runs with luck, like when Booker and Renda bounced back-to-back singles over Hatcher at third who, on Sunday night, could never be tall enough to top the Bears.
“It’s not only for us, but it’s for them, too — everyone who has ever been on the Golden Bear baseball team,” Krist said.
But most of all, this moment was, as odd as it may sound, a product of countless hours of devotion, of love between the 36 players in blue and gold and the coaches and staff who stand behind him.
“When people can see the affection that you have and the camaraderie that you have, you can do anything,” Esquer said. “Anything is possible with this group because of how they bonded together.”
It was never more obvious than in that pile of electric yellow jerseys at the end of the game as one word reverberated over and over again in the dark night:
Katie Dowd covers baseball.