After taking a brutal double-digit loss to Washington in Game 1, Cal recalibrated and found an extra gear to power through the last two games. This shocking turn of events for the Bears — taking place in the season finale in Seattle — secured the team the No. 9 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
Heading into the final regular season series, the pressure was on the bottom of the Pac-12 rankings to fight over the remaining two spots in the playoffs. With the most important series against a top-three opponent in the conference, Cal looked to execute in the clutch from Thursday through Saturday to claim a tournament berth.
This was no walk in the park for the Bears, already having to climb uphill after the first game. A lopsided 12-1 Husky victory made it seem like the Bears had run out of steam and met their match. Despite scoring first in the top of second inning, Cal lost its lead immediately due to the three-run bottom half of the inning as Washington went on to score 12 unanswered runs in five consecutive innings.
Christian Becerra took the loss for the Bears — his fifth of the season — and only lasted 2.0 innings while giving up three earned runs. Cal’s pitching struggles continued in this series opener, too, with Connor Sullivan allowing seven earned runs on eight hits in 2.2 innings.
Washington’s two arms of Stu Flesland III and Grant Cunningham dazzled on the mound in this first matchup. Flesland III tossed 6.0 solid innings, striking out five batters while only allowing one run on seven hits. Cunningham shut the door in the final three innings, conceding just one hit and one walk while punching out three batters and giving up no runs.
This was not the start the Bears were aiming for in this high-stakes situation, but the offense woke up at crunch time: Cal reached double-digit runs in back-to-back games for the first time since April 16 and 18.
The Bears’ pitching in Game 2 held the Huskies to under eight runs, which a team had not done since May 6. The more staggering aspect of the game took place on the other side of the diamond, though, as Cal’s lineup got to Washington’s talented starting pitcher Kiefer Lord.
A huge third inning for the Bears plated six runs, and Lord would go on to allow a total of nine earned runs on seven hits in just 3.1 innings of work. This raised his season earned run average almost a full point from 4.03 to 4.99.
Caleb Lomavita and Carson Crawford highlighted the offensive performance with a pair of home runs each, combining for eight RBIs on the day. The Bears tacked on two more runs in the top of the ninth inning to assure the 12-7 victory, bouncing back from the first game and reentering themselves in the conversation for a tournament spot heading into the final game of the season.
With the series tied at 1-1 and each team having scored 12 runs in their respective victories, the final game promised an impressive matchup. Cal sent its hot hand in Paulshawn Pasqualotto, who was 2-0 in his last two starts heading into Game 3, to the bump, and Washington elected to pitch right-hander Jared Engman.
Both pitchers had gutsy performances, each going five innings of work and keeping the offensive damage minimal. Engman only surrendered one earned run to the Bears’ offense, setting his team up for success.
Yet, as soon as Engman left the game, the floodgates opened for Cal’s offense, ambushing Case Matter and Sam Boyle in a nine-run sixth inning that turned the game on its head. The blue and gold rode the momentum for the remainder of the competition, toward a 16-11 victory.
Stealing two out of the three games from the Huskies secured the Bears the final spot in the Pac-12 tournament, putting them in Pool A to go head-to-head with three formidable opponents. The first matchup will be against Oregon on May 23 starting at 7:00 p.m.