Cal headed down to Scottsdale, Arizona on May 25 to play UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament, having defeated Utah to clinch its berth five days prior. The double-elimination tournament gave Cal a longshot chance of postseason play –– the unranked Bears would have had to win the tournament while up against elite foes like No. 2 Oregon State, No. 4 Stanford and No. 20 UCLA.
Despite the stiff competition, Cal got postseason conference play underway with flying colors. Junior outfielder Dylan Beavers opened the scoring against the Bruins with an inside-the-park home run in the third inning after the flight of the ball was misjudged by UCLA’s Carson Yates. The Bears’ star freshman Rodney Green Jr. followed it up with a bomb to right field in the next frame.
The Bears scored two more runs in the fifth inning to stretch their lead to four, including another run from Beavers, who found home plate thanks to junior infielder Keshawn Ogans’ sacrifice fly.
As the Bears’ batters were hard at work, junior Josh White put in a stellar pitching performance on the other end, holding the Bruins scoreless through all seven innings that he pitched. He struck out eight batters. Junior Joseph King gave the Bears two innings of relief –– he gave up one run, but did enough to close out the Bears’ massive 4-1 win.
Following its victory over UCLA, Cal headed to the winner’s bracket of the Pac-12 tournament to play against Oregon State. Oregon State, ranked No. 2 in the nation, defeated Cal during the regular season in a late March series.
In a defensive showdown, the Bears saw history repeat itself in Scottsdale. Oregon State pitchers Cooper Hjerpe and Reid Sebby proved insurmountable for the Bears. Their ingenuity on the mound kept the Bears silent, even though the blue and gold frequently threatened to score –– Cal hit 0-7 with runners in scoring positions, including a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the fifth inning. Oregon State took the game 3-1 to force a Cal rematch against UCLA.
Sitting 1-1 in the Pac-12 tournament, the Bears played UCLA to stay alive in postseason play. This time, both teams’ bats caught fire early –– starting with fifth-year infielder Hance Smith’s first inning homer, his tenth home run of the season. UCLA held steady against Cal’s early barrage thanks to a crucial fourth inning that saw the Bruins score three runs and take their first lead of the game. In the bottom of the same frame, the Bears loaded the bases and scored their own flurry of runs to reclaim the lead at 7-5.
But just as the game looked to descend into a slugfest, both teams’ bats went quiet, going scoreless for three innings. UCLA broke the deadlock to tie the game in the eighth frame, but the Bears had no response, so the teams headed to extra innings.
With the momentum fully in the Bruins’ favor, UCLA took the game in the tenth inning –– it scored two runs that proved insurmountable for Cal, by then devoid of hitting confidence. UCLA won the game 9-7 after ten innings to end the Bears’ 2022 campaign.
Cal’s loss to the Bruins marks the end of an up-and-down season for the Bears. Cal finally found its rhythm late into the season, putting together seven consecutive victories before its loss to Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament. The momentum that the Bears picked up proved timely, as it fueled their postseason run, which, while brief, was one they can certainly be proud of.
For the Bears, whose success and failure were never quite clear-cut, as they frequently lurched from massive wins to sobering and frustrating losses, the bittersweet ending to the season seems fitting.
Colin Mequet covers baseball. Contact him at email@example.com.