Bears end season on a high, Pac-12 tournament ahead

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Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff

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Following its sweep against New Mexico, Cal baseball looked to build on its momentum as it hosted Utah in its last series of the season. With the winner of the series stamping its ticket into the Pac-12 tournament, both teams had everything to play for as the regular season came to a close.

The series opened with a quick punch and counter-punch between Cal’s star first-baseman, Nathan Martorella, and Utah’s Chase Anderson, exchanging solo home runs. But Martorella’s home run showed the way for the Bears, who scored 12 runs in the fifth and seventh frames while the Utes’ bats stayed quiet. The Bears won comprehensively 13-1.

Following Thursday’s domination of the Utes, the Bears had the opportunity to clinch their berth into the Pac-12 tournament with a win Friday. Cal played lights-out on both sides — junior pitcher Steven Zobac put in a stellar performance, striking out 11 of the 24 batters he faced to keep the Utes scoreless through all six innings that he pitched.

Meanwhile, Cal’s sluggers rounded the bases seven times in the opening two innings to coast to an early lead. The Bears’ bats went quiet during the middle of the contest, before finding a second wind in the seventh and eighth frames, scoring 11 more runs. The blue and gold demolished Utah 18-2 to take the series and clinch their spot in the Pac-12 tournament.

After Friday’s crucial victory, Cal had one more order of business in its season finale: senior day. The game started inauspiciously for the Bears — Utah took an early lead, its first advantage throughout the entire series, with a solo home run in the first inning. The Utes led 3-0 by the bottom of the second.

But the Bears would not let the visitors spoil their season-ending celebrations: Cal clawed back to lead 7-4 by the top of the fourth inning. Predictably, Martorella played a part in the Bears’ comeback, batting two runs in with a single up the middle. Martorella extended his hitting streak to 18 games, tied for longest by a Cal player since 2015.

But Utah’s bats found a late flurry, scoring four runs to take an 8-7 lead in the seventh inning.  Cal could not respond in the bottom of the seventh or eighth frames, so the Bears entered the ninth inning with their backs against the wall.

As Stu Gordon Stadium tensed, freshman outfielder Rodney Green Jr. eased the Bears’ nerves with a key triple down the right field line to bat in a run and tie the game. Then, senior catcher Dom Souto –– already the Bears’ walk-off hero against Oregon State earlier this year –– hit a walk-off single to bat in junior infielder Keshawn Ogans and seal the game for Cal.

Following its back-to-back series sweeps against New Mexico and Utah, Cal finishes its 2022 campaign with a 28-25 regular season record, earning it the No. 6 seed in the Pac-12 tournament. The Bears will head to Scottsdale, AZ where they will play the No. 3 seed UCLA on May 25 in their hunt for conference glory.

Colin Mequet covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].