This is the second in a two-part installment of the top 10 moments from Cal sports this year. Today we bring you moments 1-5. For moments 6-10, click here.
5. Bears win 18-inning game at Stanford
For 17 innings, Tony Renda waited. Without a hit through seven at-bats, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year came through in his final opportunity of the game.
With two outs and a runner on second in the top of the 18th inning on May 25, Renda drove home Mike Reuvekamp, giving the Cal baseball team a lead it wouldn’t surrender in its longest, most tiring, most exhilarating win of an otherwise disappointing season.
The 18-inning game took nearly six hours to complete. A matchup that started at 5:30 p.m. ended half an hour before midnight. Batters from each team stepped up to the plate 152 times against nine different pitchers, five of whom threw at least 4 2/3 innings.
The win was a rare statement game from a Cal team that otherwise struggled mightily against ranked competition, missing out on the postseason after a mediocre year. Stanford entered the game ranked No. 14, and Cal entered the series having struggled to take down top competition, just 4-15 against top-25 foes.
The first nine innings ended with the score knotted at two, Cal starter Matt Flemer was resigned to a no-decision after allowing just one earned run through 7 2/3 innings, matching first-round pick Mark Appel. The Bears had a chance to win the game in the 12th, scoring twice in the top half of the inning, but gave those runs back in the bottom half.
After Renda’s RBI knock in the 18th, Justin Jones sealed the victory, giving Cal its most definitive win over a ranked opponent on the season.
— Chris Yoder
4. Cal topples No. 1 UCLA
College tennis’ idiosyncratic format – six singles matches take place concurrently – makes it difficult to tell which team is ahead. Thus the Cal women’s tennis team’s upset victory over top-ranked, unbeaten UCLA on April 13 featured a rarity: one final set to decide the winner.
Cal’s Annie Goransson and UCLA’s Chanelle Van Nguyen battled on the fifth court for nearly three hours, playing the decisive third set with their teammates gathered around the court.
In the end, it was Goransson who prevailed, giving Cal a 4-3 win. Her 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory was the high point for the Bears’ season, moving the team to 16-4, including a 8-0 record in the Pac-12.
The match itself was laced with plot twists. UCLA, winners of the doubles point in their first 20 contests, lost all three doubles matches, giving Cal a 1-0 lead. The Bears’ Jana Juricova and Anett Schutting both won the first sets of their singles matches, but neither came out victorious. Zsofi Susanyi’s win on the second court was the only match decided in straight sets.
It took a comeback win by Cal’s Tayler Davis on court four to keep her team alive and give Goransson a chance to clinch the match. When Van Nguyen fired a shot into the net at match point, the Bears stormed the court, celebrating what coach Amanda Augustus called “such a team effort.”
The glee did not last long, as the Bruins avenged their loss by ousting Cal in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Yet for Bears fans who saw their team break through, the win served as a indicator that their team has a place in the top tier of collegiate tennis.
— Luca Marzorati
3. Brandon Hagy seals Pac-12 title for Cal
Two is always better than one. That was certainly the case for sophomore Brandon Hagy on the 18th hole at the Pac-12 conference championships on Apr. 29.
After entering the final day of the tournament trailing Oregon by six shots, the Bears had almost completed the unlikely comeback.
But on the 18th green, it looked as though the Bears had trailed by too much to come all the way back. Hagy’s approach left him 40 feet from the hole, needing the birdie in order to tie the Ducks and force an extra hole playoff.
Hagy hit a perfect shot and stunned Oregon, forcing the teams into the sudden death extra hole.
“I hit it exactly how I wanted it to,” Hagy said. “It looked good from 10 feet out and it went in. It was a really good feeling.”
After the teams remained tied on the 16th hole after the first extra hole, Hagy found himself in an all too familiar situation — a long putt on the 18th green.
Hagy didn’t struggle the second time around either, dropping the 25-foot putt and securing the Bears’ first-ever conference championship.
“I’m so pumped for all the guys that played so hard,” Hagy said.
“We just hung so tough, especially in the playoff. Everybody really grinded and made some clutch putts.”
The win marked the Bears’ record fifth win of the season — an all-time high — and gave them momentum moving into the NCAAs, where they advanced to match play and the tournament semifinals.
— Warren Laufer
2. Bears advance to Women’s College World Series
After the Cal softball team clinched a spot in the Women’s College World Series with a 2-0 victory over Washington at Levine-Fricke Field, the Bears didn’t celebrate too much.
“There’s definitely still more to be done,” said left fielder Jamia Reid after the game. “Not too much celebration. We’re going to hold off until the final game.”
Perhaps the Bears ought to have celebrated. That “final game” never came for Cal, as the squad left the World Series early, exposed by two Southern schools and their overpowering starting pitchers.
But in a season chock full of accolades and accomplishments, a historic win on their home field had Cal fans buzzing.
Cal coach Diane Ninemire called it “the biggest win in Cal history for softball.” After four scoreless frames and a sliding catch by Reid with the bases loaded that saved at least two Washington runs, Cheyenne Cordes drove in the winning runs for the Bears with a two-run shot over the left field scoreboard.
The Bears turned a bruising Pac-12 schedule into a cakewalk, cruising to a 50-4 regular season record and their first outright conference title since 1987. Ranked No. 1 for the majority of the season, the Super Regional win capped Cal’s biggest win of the year.
After a season of extraordinary expectations, the Bears fell flat in the World Series, turning what should have been the season’s penultimate high into the ultimate one.
But Cal’s historic season will not be forgotten anytime soon.
— Chris Yoder
1. Men’s and women’s swim teams win NCAA titles
There must be something in the water at Spieker Aquatics Center. How else to explain the wild success of the Cal swim teams in recent years?
Both the Cal men’s and women’s swim teams won national team titles this March, each for the second year in a row. Each team proved definitively that when it comes to college swimming, there is no better program.
That’s about where the similarities end.
The women’s team entered the year loaded with top-tier talent, including 2012 Olympic hopefuls Caitlin Leverenz, Sara Isakovic and Liv Jensen. Ranked No. 1 or No. 2 for most of the year, the Pac-12 champions entered the national meet in the spotlight after a solid regular season, picking up their third NCAA title in four years.
The men’s team, on the other hand, entered NCAAs as underdogs.
Of the six Cal swimmers who won events at NCAAs in 2011, junior Tom Shields was the only returner. But the Bears more than made up for their losses with depth and young talent. The meet served as a coming out party for youngsters like sophomore Marcin Tarczynski (200 IM champion) and freshman Will Hamilton (200 fly winner). Cal swimmers won six events and took second in five more. Head coach David Durden displayed a knack for getting his swimmers to peak when it mattered most.
There may never again be a team like this year’s men’s swim team — if only because the program is unlikely to enter NCAAs as an underdog ever again.
— Chris Yoder