Cal baseball’s 2022 season: a thriller with a feel-good ending

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Theo Wyss-Flamm/Senior Staff

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Cal baseball’s 2022 season was a tumultuous campaign in which the Bears frequently swung from seemingly season-defining wins to disappointing losses. The Bears hovered around .500 for the majority of the year, struggling to find a groove. Fortunately for Cal, a late surge to end the season, capped off with a satisfying performance at the Pac-12 tournament, wiped away most frustrations and ended the team’s thrilling, up-and-down season on a satisfying note.

The squad came out of the gates quickly. They aced the MLB4 Tournament, with a massive victory against No. 17 TCU and wins against Houston and San Diego State. Freshman catcher Caleb Lomavita and freshman outfielder Rodney Green Jr. both put their hitting acumen on display over the course of the long weekend — Lomavita scored two of the Bears’ four runs against Houston, and Green Jr. hit a clutch triple before reaching home plate to upset the Horned Frogs.

But despite the dream opening weekend, the Bears could not keep up their momentum. Cal fell to Gonzaga and lost a series against University of Illinois Chicago in the following games.

Ultimately, this unpredictability and inconsistency became characteristic of the blue and gold, as they were unable to recreate their performances against top national programs when they played lesser opposition. After its loss to unranked Cal Poly, following a series win over No. 25 USC, Cal had a better record against ranked teams (6-5) than unranked teams (4-5).

“We haven’t been complete in our games,” said junior first baseman Nathan Martorella after a win against Washington. “We know that if we play a full game we can compete with anybody.”

Following the Washington series victory, Cal defeated Washington State to string together back-to-back series victories for the first time in the 2022 season. But in typical fashion, the tallest peak of the season came just before Cal’s lowest valley: a 4-8 stretch with series defeats to No. 13 UCLA, No. 25 Oregon and No. 11 Stanford.

Cal needed to get rolling again in its final two series of the season to secure Pac-12 tournament berth, and it did so with flying colors. The Bears crushed New Mexico, winning all three games by a total margin of 42-5; the blue and gold took the series against Utah to clinch conference tournament berth.

In the final game of the regular season, Cal defended Stu Gordon Stadium for the last time — senior catcher Dom Souto hit a walk-off single to steal the game late. In the same game, Martorella extended his hitting streak to 18 games, the longest by a Bear since 2015.

Having qualified by the skin of their teeth, the Bears came out to the Pac-12 tournament in Scottsdale with little to lose, throwing themselves at their likely season-ending games. A heroic pitching performance from juniors Josh White and Joseph King propelled Cal past No. 20 UCLA in the Bears’ opening game, a monumental postseason victory for the Bears that put them in the winners bracket of the tournament.

But Cal could not keep up this pace — despite commendable performances, it could not get over the finish line against Oregon State or in its rematch against UCLA, after which the Bears bowed out of the tournament to finish their 2022 campaign.

Missed opportunities and inconsistency were the common themes throughout Cal’s 29-27 season, as leads were given away and the Bears suffered some embarrassing losses.

But ultimately, the Bears’ 7-2 run in their last nine games, including their upset victory over UCLA, demonstrated an impressive backbone and resolve that all Cal fans should be proud of. With underclassmen like Rodney Green Jr. and Caleb Lomavita showing promising futures in the blue and gold, Cal baseball can look to 2023 with optimism.

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