The third-seeded Bears advanced to the finals of the Texas A&M Regional when Mitchell Kranson delivered a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 14th inning for a 2-1 win over the host Aggies on Saturday.
Cal (36-19) will play Sunday night against the winner of the game between top-seeded A&M (46-12) and Coastal Carolina.
The Bears would need to be beaten Sunday night and again Monday to deny them their first Super Regionals berth since 2011. Freshman left-hander Mike Ladrech (7-4, 2.72 ERA) is expected to start Sunday night’s game.
“Win or lose, that was probably going to be one of the greatest games in program history,” Cal coach David Esquer said afterward. “Thank goodness, it turned into one of the greatest wins in program history, but that was two teams really going at it. It hinged on every pitch and there were so many heroes throughout the day.”
Cal starter Ryan Mason allowed just one run on six hits over eight innings, and relievers Dylan Nelson, Chris Muse-Fisher and Erik Martinez combined to surrender only five hits in six scoreless innings.
A&M scored its lone run in first inning, then was blanked the rest of the way by the Bears’ pitchers.
Devin Pearson went 4 for 7 including a double for Cal and Kranson had three hits.
The third-seeded Cal baseball team got off to a good start in the NCAA tournament, riding a strong starting pitching performance by sophomore Daulton Jefferies to a 9-3 win over Coastal Carolina on Friday at College Station, Texas.
The Bears (35-19) face top-seeded host Texas A&M (46-11) on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Aggies defeated Texas Southern 5-0 on Friday night at Blue Bell Park.
Junior right-hander Ryan Mason (6-3, 3.18) is expected to pitch for the Bears against A&M right-hander Grayson Long (9-0, 2.62).
Saturday’ game is not televised but fans can follow @Cal_Baseball on Twitter for updates.
The Bears picked up their first NCAA tournament win since beating Texas A&M at the 2011 College World Series, thanks for a sharp effort by Jefferies and a big day at the plate by his batterymate Mitchell Kranson.
Jefferies limited the Chanticleers (38-20) of the Big South Conference to one run on three hits over seven innings. He struck out five and won his sixth game of the season.
Kranson was 3 for 4 with a pair of RBIs. Aaron Knapp and Devin Pearson each had run-scoring doubles in the fifth inning as the Bears took the lead for good.
Zion Echols, a three-star “athlete” prospect from Charter Oaks High in West Covina, had offers from seven Pac-12 schools and announced Saturday he will attend Cal.
A 5-foot-10, 170-pounder, Echols also had offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State in the Pac-12, along with Boise State, BYU, LSU and San Jose State.
Cal got its third oral commitment from a defensive back Wednesday when cornerback Traveon Bell of St. John Bosco-Bellflower chose the Bears.
Bell announced his commitment on Twitter: “Well it’s official ! … I’m so happy and blessed to say I have committed to being a Cal Bear !! #CalGang2016 !!!”
Bell is rated as a three-star prospect by Rivals and Scout.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder chose Cal over Arizona State, Washington, Wisconsin and San Jose State, among others, according to Rivals.com.
He is Cal’s eighth 2016 commitment, joining safeties Marquel Dismuke and Shurod Thompson.
The long wait is over, presumably.
On the day before the spring signing period ends, five-star center Caleb Swanigan committed to Purdue, alma mater of his legal guardian and former Boilermaker football player Roosevelt Barnes.
Cal went hard after the 6-foot-9, 265-pounder from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who last month de-committed from Michigan State. Top-10 recruits and Cal signees Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown — Swanigan’s teammates on the postseason high school all-star circuit — tried to get him to Berkeley.
Instead, he stayed home and, in the process, likely kept peace in his family.
Commitments are not binding until a letter-of-intent is signed.
Here’s the story posted by Evan Daniels of Scout.com, who first reported the news Tuesday morning. Here’s more, from ESPN.com.
Cal got an oral commitment Friday from offensive tackle Jake Curhan, a 6-foot-7, 315-pounder from Redwood High in Larkspur.
Rated a three-star prospect by both Scout and Rivals, Curhan has a 3.97 grade-point average, according to the recruiting website.
He chose Cal after also getting offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Oregon State, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Washington State, among others.
Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News, who knows his stuff, has projected the Bears as the nation’s No. 13 team entering next season.
Heady stuff for a program that finished in a three-way tie for eighth place in the Pac-12 last season and did not participate in the postseason.
DeCourcy notes that Cal has three double-figure scorers returning in the backcourt — Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird. “Elite recruit Jaylen Brown is better than all of them,” he writes. “McDonald’s All-American Ivan Rabb was one of the most coveted frontcourt recruits.”
But DeCourcy also points out, “What’s worrisome about the Bears is how truly mediocre with a fairly solid roster last season. We’re supposed to be excited about Jordan, Mathews and Bird returning, but they’re returning from a team that lost six of its final eight games and barely competed in two losses to Arizona.”
Here’s The Sporting News’ entire top-25:
1. Kansas; 2. Maryland; 3. North Carolina; 4. Kentucky; 5. Duke; 6. Virginia; 7. Iowa State; 8. Arizona; 9. Wichita State; 10. Gonzaga; 11. Oklahoma; 12. Villanova; 13. Cal; 14. North Carolina State; 15. Indiana; 16. West Virginia; 17. Cincinnati; 18. Michigan; 19. Oregon; 20. Wisconsin; 21. Florida State; 22. Butler; 23. Michigan State; 24. LSU; 25. Xavier.
Cal coach Cuonzo Martin spent time this week talking about his program on the Pac-12 Sports Report, and enjoyed the news that Arizona coach Sean Miller said the Bears can win the national title next season.
But he also stressed that in Pac-12 basketball, all things run through Arizona.
Click here to watch his interview.
One day after he de-committed from Michigan State, giving Cal fans a reason to be optimistic, five-star center Caleb Swanigan reportedly has committed to Purdue.
Here’s the story on the website 247Sports.
Cal’s 2015-16 basketball schedule is not yet finalized, but we do know some key dates:
Nov. 13 — The season opener will be at Haas Pavilion against Rice. The Owls were 12-20 last season.
Nov. 26-27 — The Bears will play in the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena in a four-team event also featuring San Diego State (27-9 in 2014-15), West Virginia (25-10) and Richmond (21-14). Matchups for the Thanksgiving week event have not been set.
Dec. 2 — Cal visits Wyoming (25-10), completing the home-and-home that began last season with a 45-42 Bears’ win in Berkeley.
Dec. 22 — The Bears travel to Virginia (30-4) to face a Cavaliers’ squad which began last season with 19 straight wins and finished with a third-round NCAA tournament loss to Michigan State.