Top 5 Cal sports events of 2016

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Baseball: UCLA @ Cal, April 1

With only 14 minutes until the first pitch of Friday’s series opener against UCLA, pitcher Ryan Mason was told to start warming up. Daulton Jefferies — Cal’s ace and an eventual first-round draft pick in the 2016 MLB Draft — was scheduled to start against the Bruins, but was scratched with leg tightness.

Mason, perhaps the grittiest player on that 2016 squad, was bumped up from his usual Saturday spot to replace Jefferies. And in a performance that would leave the likes of Marco Scutaro and Nick Punto impressed, Mason’s scrappy spot start helped Cal secure a 9-1 win.

The eventual 13th-round draft pick worked his magic on the mound for the Bears and did not let a runner to reach scoring position until the fifth. He allowed one earned run in the sixth, but any trouble Mason did get into following the score was quickly erased by stellar pitching or his defense behind him.

Jefferies ended up sitting out over a month of baseball dealing with his injury, and the Bears’ season quickly came crashing down, going 15-13 until his return. But Mason’s Friday spot start will live on in infamy as the grittiest, scrappiest moment of the 2016 season.

— Chris Tril

Rugby: 2016 championships, May 7

In the 2016 season, for the first time in Jack Clark’s tenure as rugby head coach, no player on the roster had won a championship in 15s. And for most of the season, it did not look like that was going to change.

After Cal rugby suffered one of its most humiliating defeats, a 50-3 beatdown by rival UBC, 2016 didn’t seem to be the year for the Bears. In the semifinals, as Central Washington lined up for a last-second chip shot kick that would knock Cal out before their annual finals matchup with BYU, 2016 didn’t seem to be the year for the Bears. Down 10 points and having missed a crucial kick in that unlikely final against BYU, 2016 didn’t seem to be the year for the Bears.

But Cal didn’t let the stinging defeat get to their heads. Central Washington’s kick was wide left, and the Bears scored 21 unanswered points against BYU to seal their spot as the number one team in the land.

So in Provo, as stars Russell Webb and Anthony Salaber took their turns with the trophy and an emotional Jack Clark fought his way through a post-game interview, 2016 turned out to indeed be the year for these Bears.

— Andrew Wild

 

Football: No. 18 Utah @ Cal, Oct. 2

“One play for the win … Moss does not get it! Cal holds!”

On a day that featured senior quarterback Davis Webb throwing for 306 yards and four touchdowns, Cal’s defense proved to be the difference-maker in a hard-fought game between the Bears and Utes that came down to the final seconds.

With then-No. 18 Utah just a yard shy from escaping Memorial Stadium with a victory on Cal’s Homecoming weekend, sophomore defensive tackle James Looney met Utes running back Zack Moss in the backfield, dropping him short of the goal line as time expired. The Bears’ maligned defense, which stopped the Utes’ offense six times from inside the 10 yard line, held on, 28-23, to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

The win was Cal’s second straight over a ranked opponent at home, improving the Bears’ overall record to 3-2. It was also the Bears’ first game holding an opponent to less that 30 points in a game, a feat that they accomplished just twice all season. Despite being on the field for more than 42 out of the 60 minutes in the game, Looney and the defense held the Utes’ running attack to just 3.3 yards per carry, denying Moss the victory as the clock hit zero.

— Josh Yuen

Men’s water polo: 2016 championships, Dec. 4

While the 2016 season featured blowout wins and distressingly close matches, crucial turnovers and field blocks and satisfying goals — including one cross-pool shot by Lazar Andric against USC and 75 by MPSF leading scorer Johnny Hooper — the Cal men’s water polo team’s final weekend of play at the NCAA Water Polo Championship Tournament was by far the highlight.

The Bears, who had to win a play-in game to even secure their spot in the semi-final round, won it all in their home pool. In a hard fought and exhausting overtime match, Cal upset a UCLA team that at one point this season had 57 consecutive wins, 9-8.

The next day, with little recovery time, the Bears once again proved their supremacy by beating MPSF champion USC 11-8, also in overtime. Both were stomach-tied-in-knots type of games, and nervous energy and electricity ceaselessly surged through the Spieker Aquatics Complex.

If the pool full of celebrating players, coaches and fans after the finals round win against the Trojans was any indicator, this 14th national title win will never be forgotten.

— Sarah Goldzweig

Women’s basketball: Sacramento State @ Cal, Dec. 8

Cal vs. Sacramento State. It was supposed to be another routine matchup for the Bears, but forward Kristine Anigwe turned it into something different.

She single-handedly destroyed the Sacramento State defense, as she scored 50 points in the match. Yes, 50 points.

To put that into perspective, this is the first time that a Cal basketball player, man or woman, has scored that many points. Anigwe shot an astounding 83 percent from the field en route to breaking the school record for most points that was set by men’s player Ed Gray in 1997.

The beauty of Anigwe’s jaw-dropping performance lays in its simplicity. Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s cohorts came in with the gameplan of feeding Anigwe as much as possible, and the forward took advantage of it in the most emphatic fashion. There were no cheeky moves or rim-shattering dunks. Instead, it was efficient, fundamental basketball as Anigwe’s silky post moves paved the way for Cal’s win.

Anigwe, while talking to her coach earlier in the week had mentioned Kobe Bryant’s quote, “In order to make history, you have to do historic things.” Anigwe, on Dec. 8, wrote her own chapter in Cal’s history book.

— Devang Prasad

Contact the sports staff at [email protected].

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