The Cal baseball team (32-21, 14-16 Pac-12) ran away with its last series win of the regular season Sunday, defeating Washington State (19-35, 11-19), 11-5, to take two of three games against the Cougars.
But unfortunately for the Bears, the series win was not enough to qualify for the 2016 postseason.
Even after an exceptional showing on the field Saturday and Sunday, Cal was not one of the 64 teams chosen by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee to make it to the next round. The Bears’ second half skid was just too great for them to qualify after a stellar first half.
While the Bears looked sharp during their last two games, their first game Friday delivered what could have been the final nail in the coffin for the team’s season.
Tanner Dodson took the mound for the Bears to open the series Friday and did so with solid results for the first three innings. Although he stranded a pair of runners on two occasions, Dodson was able to walk back to the dugout without any damage done on the scoreboard. It wasn’t until the fourth inning where his luck started to run out, allowing an RBI single to Washington State’s Jack Strunc to fall behind 0-1. The deficit grew in the fifth when the Cougars scored another three runs to take a hefty 4-0 lead.
Cal was only able to get one of those four runs back in the top of the sixth with a big two-out single by left fielder Mitchell Kranson off relief pitcher Ryan Walker. Unfortunately for the Bears, Walker would go on to throw 3 ⅔ innings of scoreless ball and get an 11-out save in the 4-1 loss.
Although Friday’s loss pretty much cost the Bears their season, they followed it up with perhaps their greatest victory of the year. And to the surprise of no one, Daulton Jefferies was the man to start that victory.
Cal’s ace threw five innings of one-hit ball, completely shutting out the Cougar offense while striking out six. Alex Schick relieved Jefferies and threw a masterpiece of his own, striking out four and allowing no hits in a 12-out save opportunity.
“It kind of felt like our old team again. With Daulton throwing and (Ryan) Mason behind him it was a pretty good one-two punch,” Kranson said. “It was just too bad that we weren’t able to have that throughout the whole year, but that’s just the way it goes.”
The Bear bats came up big, scoring seven runs in the combined one-hitter. Sacrifice flies from Kranson and Brenden Farney gave Cal a 2-0 lead, but outfielder Brian Celsi made it a 3-0 game with an RBI double in the fourth. Celsi knocked in another run in the seventh, along with a two-run single by pinch-hitter Denis Karas. First baseman Nick Halamandaris capped off Cal’s night in the ninth, delivering an RBI single to secure the 7-0 game to win.
On Sunday, it was three seniors — Mason, Keaton Siomkin and Jordan Talbot — making possibly their last appearances for Cal that helped win head coach David Esquer his 500th career win. Mason went seven strong innings in his last regular season appearance, striking out only three but allowing just two runs. Siomkin and Talbot allowed one and two runs, respectively, in relief but were backed up by the Cal offense, which scored 11 runs in the 11-5 win.
Eight of Cal’s starting nine had at least two hits in the team’s offensive breakout, with designated hitter Devin Pearson and second baseman Preston Grand Pre tallying three apiece.
“It was awesome to get to (Esquer’s) 500th win,” Kranson said. “He was telling us how we were a special team to him so getting that for him on the last game of the season for him was huge.”
Chris Tril covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].