Cal baseball defies expectations despite season-ending loss

Ireland Wagner/Staff

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When future generations reflect on the 2019 Bears, this team will be remembered as one that defied expectations.

Cal wasn’t expected to be in this position. This team was projected to finish eighth in the conference and miss the playoffs altogether. If these Bears were going to come anywhere near the postseason, they were going to need numerous players on their roster to make the leap. And leap they did.

The Bears competed with some of the nation’s best on the road. They won 21 of their last 28 games to finish the regular season, going from being a bubble team to a lock. They shot up into the nation’s top 25. Ultimately, they qualified for regionals for the first time during Mike Neu’s tenure as head coach.

Cal wasn’t expected to be in this position, either. The morning after getting smacked with an uppercut by TCU, Cal was knocked out of the tournament for good by Central Connecticut in the form of a 7-4 loss. Instead of potentially contending for super regionals, the boys from Berkeley will be heading home empty-handed.

This weekend, the Bears didn’t look like the team that won 21 of its last 28. They didn’t look like the team that shot into the nation’s top 25. They looked far different from the team that earned a No. 2 seed in the Fayetteville Regional. They defied expectations once again.

Just in the wrong way.

“Disappointed in the weekend, obviously,” Neu said. “Tough to lose when you go in with some expectations. Hoped to put on a little better weekend. Our guys competed all year.”

Hypothetically, as a team with no seniors, Cal could bring back its entire team and run it back. More likely than not, that will not be the case. For a couple Bears, Saturday was the last time they’ll ever lace ‘em up for the blue and gold.

Among the first names called in the MLB draft was Andrew Vaughn, who was selected No. 3 overall by the Chicago White Sox, becoming the highest-selected player in program history. In three seasons with the Bears, the Golden Spikes Award winner racked up a laundry list of awards and will depart as one of the best hitters in school history.

While Vaughn’s departure for the pros was a foregone conclusion heading into the season, several Bears played their way into the draft. In addition to Vaughn, Korey Lee, Cameron Eden, Jared Horn, Arman Sabouri, Rogelio Reyes and Brandon McIlwain were drafted as well.

Lee, Eden, Horn and Sabouri will, more likely than not, depart for the minors and begin their professional careers, but Reyes or McIlwain may be inclined to return, increase their respective draft stocks and attempt to get drafted higher. Regardless of who among the drafted players elects to return, if any do at all, Cal will return a solid core, headlined by Quentin Selma, Darren Baker and Sam Stoutenborough, among others, but will have numerous holes to fill across the roster.

“Cal’s going to be great next year,” Vaughn said after being drafted. “I’m very excited to see how they progress from this. Some guys will stay behind and be very good, and hopefully, some guys get to move on to the draft here shortly. It should be very exciting.”

Justice delos Santos is the assistant sports editor. Contact Justice delos Santos at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @justdelossantos.