Cal baseball secures final series victory against ASU, denied postseason play

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With the last series of the season against Arizona State officially in the books, the Cal men’s baseball team bids farewell to another season. Despite a final series victory, 2-1, against the Sun Devils, the Bears were denied the opportunity of postseason play for the third straight season.

“We ended up falling short of where we wanted to be,” said Cal head coach Mike Neu. “Hopefully this is a building block for the guys coming back and for the new guys to understand that we maybe have to do a little more in some of the games that we were in a position to win that we didn’t come through on.”

Although the Bears weren’t able to accomplish their goal of making it to a regional, they still have a lot to be proud of. The team fought valiantly all season long and made many strides forward in the first year of Coach Neu’s tenure. In the Pac-12, Cal finished its campaign with the third-highest batting average and sixth-best pitching ERA.

The major highlights of Cal’s season were fueled by sophomore Andrew Vaughn, who capped off his remarkable year by hitting .402 with a team-high 23 home runs and 63 RBI. Along with Vaughn on the offensive side of things, juniors Jonah Davis, Tanner Dodson and Tyrus Greene all batted over .300 and served as vital cogs in the Cal lineup.

Freshmen Darren Baker and Sam Wezniak both had impressive campaigns for the Bears and contributed in a multitude of ways over the season.

On the pitching side of things, Cal also saw major improvements on the mound. Senior Matt Ladrech, in his final year, anchored a strong pitching rotation. Ladrech had a team-high seven wins and was masterful over the second half of the season. The Bears also got strong performances from sophomore Jared Horn and junior Aaron Shortridge, who each pitched in with five wins.

Cal’s bullpen at the beginning of the season was always a priority that Coach Neu had to tangle with. While there certainly were rocky times, the bullpen definitely saw improvement throughout the season, which was a major plus for the Bears.

Dodson was masterful on the whole as a closer, recording 11 saves in 19 appearances. While it’s unclear if he will return after the MLB draft concludes, Dodson was a major two-way asset who played a pivotal role for the team.

Overall, Cal will look back at this season feeling a bit of disappointment. There were definitely a handful of games in which the Bears will feel like they could have come out on top. Whether winning a few of these games would have made a difference is uncertain — nevertheless, Cal will still be left wondering.

While this is the case, however, the Bears boast a young core that will come back next year looking to avenge this season’s shortcomings. With plenty of talent on the team and a new crop of players set to join the program next season, the future definitely looks bright in Berkeley for Cal baseball.

Praveen Kuruppu covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].