Cal Baseball (33-23) to Face Virginia Commonwealth (38-17) in Baton Rouge, LA Regional
May 21, 2001
BERKELEY, CA - THE SCHEDULEThe Bears (33-23, 14-10, third in the Pac-10, ranked 26th in Collegiate Baseball) enter the South Regional as the No. 3 seeded team and will face the No. 2 seeded Virginia Commonwealth (38-17)...the South Regional goes from Friday, May 27 through Sunday May 29...other teams in the South Regional bracket are No. 1 seed LSU (40-19, ranked 12th in Baseball America) and No. 4 seed Minnesota (40-19, ranked 25th in Baseball America)...
Day Date Opponent Site Time_____Fri. May 25 Virginia Commonwealth Alex Box Stadium, Baton Rouge, LA 7:00 p.m. CDT
RADIOKALX Radio (90.7 FM) will broadcast all Cal games at the South Regional with Ralph Gaston and Roxy Bernstein announcing...The David Esquer Show will air 10 minutes before the first pitch...broadcast of the Bears game at the xxxxx Regional will be available on a KALX link available on the Cal website, www.calbears.com...
SERIES RECORDCal has never faced Virginia Commonwealth of LSU...Cal has a 4-1 overall series record against Minnesota, last defeating the Gophers 9-7 on March 7, 1998 at the Hormel Foods Classic at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, MN...this season, Cal is 19-10 on the road and 14-13 at Evans Diamond...the Bears are 14-10 versus Pac-10 opponents and 19-13 versus non-conference opponents...
REGIONAL INFORMATIONThe 2001 South Regional is held at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, LA...the four-team double elimination tournament begins Friday, May 25 at 2 p.m. with the Minnesota-LSU game, followed by the California-Virginia Commonwealth game at 7 p.m....game times for Saturday are 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m....if the Bears win Friday, they will play the winner of Minnesota-LSU at 3 p.m. Saturday...
CAL HEAD COACH DAVID ESQUER--2001 PAC-10 COACH OF THE YEAR The Bears coach is in his second season at Cal and has a career record of 58-51 (.532)...he recently was named 2001 Pac-10 Coach of the Year...Esquer, 35, became only the 10th coach in the long history of Cal baseball, which began in 1892, when he was hired June 10, 1999...Esquer replaced longtime Bear mentor Bob Milano, who retired May 17, 1999 after 22 years as the Bears head coach and 29 years involved in the Cal baseball program...Esquer came to Berkeley after serving as the top assistant at Pepperdine from 1996-99...prior to working at Pepperdine, he was the No. 2 assistant coach at Stanford under Mark Marquess from 1991-96...a shortstop at Stanford from 1984-87, Esquer, along with assistant Ron Witmeyer, were starters on Stanford's 1987 College World Series championship team, earning All-Tournament honors after hitting .350 with six RBI in Omaha...he also earned All-Pac-10 Southern Division honors as a senior and went on to play professional baseball for four seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, California Angels and Milwaukee Brewers organizations...
BEAR NOTESThe Cal baseball team, 33-23 overall and 14-10 in the Pac-10, ended the 2001 regular season with a two-game sweep of Kansas State, May 12-13 in Manhattan, KS (6-4, 16-10)...the young Bears, who regularly start three freshmen and three sophomores, finished the conference schedule by winning seven of its last nine league games (2-for-3 at Arizona, 2-for-3 versus then No. 1 ranked Stanford, 3-for-3 at UCLA) and seven of eight regular season contests...Cal's 33 wins is its most regular season wins since 1991 and its 14 Pac-10 wins is the most since 1995, the last time the Bears made an NCAA Regional...in 1995, Cal played in the Mideast Regional in Knoxville, TN, defeating Georgia Tech, 4-3, and falling to Oklahoma State, 15-4, and Pittsburgh, 9-4...in the school's history, five of the eight times the Bears have gone to an NCAA Regional, they have gone on to the College World Series in Omaha, NE (1947 NCAA Championship was held in Kalamazoo, MI)), twice winning the national title (1947, 1957), including the first-ever national championship in 1947 (defeating former President George Bush's Yale team, 8-7, in the title game)...Cal has a 31-15 (.674) overall record in postseason play, including a 21-9 (.700) mark in Regional play and 10-6 (.600) in World Series games...the Bears had one player, junior second baseman Carson White, selected to the 2001 Pac-10 All-Conference Team and six players (seniors Rob Meyer, David Cash, junior Trevor Hutchinson, sophomores John Baker and Ben Conley, freshman Matt Brown)...senior rightfielder Meyer was also named Pac-10 Player of the Week May 7 after having an outstanding game May 1 at San Francisco and an outstanding series May 4-6 at UCLA...Meyer, who leads Cal with a .347 average, went 4-for-6 with two RBI at San Francisco and then was 6-for-14 with a double, home run and four RBI against the Bruins...he also had a game-saving diving catch in the bottom of the 10th inning in the Bears 11-inning win over UCLA May 5...for more information on the Cal players, check the 2001 season in review story and the Bears individual player bios...Cal was predicted to finish fifth in the Pac-10 Coaches' Preseason Poll...
TENTATIVE CALIFORNIA LINE-UPNo. Pos. Player 2001 stats2 CF Ben Conley, So. .318, 20 RBI, 2 HR34 3B Conor Jackson, Fr. .300, 31 RBI, 4 HR26 RF Rob Meyer, Sr. .347, 37 RBI, 7 HR33 C John Baker, So. .331, 29 RBI, 3 HR1 2B Carson White, Jr. .340, 49 RBI, 8 HR17 1B Clint Hoover, Sr. .259, 49 RBI, 10 HR24 LF Brian Horwitz, Fr. .296, 29 RBI, 1 HR3 DH Brad Smith, So. .252, 17 RBI, 3 HR9 SS Jeff Dragicevich, Fr. .300, 18 RBI, 3 HR32 RHP Trevor Hutchinson, Jr. (Fri.)6-6, 3.59 ERA
VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTHThe Virginia Commonwealth Rams, coached by Paul Keyes, are 38-17, 12-8 in the CAA...top hitters for the Rams are junior outfielder Matt Davis (.399, 3 HR, 25 RBI), junior infielder Joshua Arteaga (.361, 7 HR, 62 RBI) and sophomore catcher Jose Pabon (.313, 6 HR, 31 RBI)...VCU's tentative starting pitcher is junior right-hander Davy Martin (6-2, 5.40 ERA) or freshman left-hander Sean Marshall (9-3, 2.42 ERA)...
2001 PAC-10 STANDINGS Conference Overall W L PCT GB W L T .PCTUSC 18 6 .750 --- 39 17 .696Stan 17 7 .708 1.0 42 14 .750ASU 14 10 .583 4.0 36 18 1 .664CAL 14 10 .583 4.0 33 23 .589Arizona 12 12 .500 6.0 33 23 .589OSU 11 13 .458 7.0 31 24 .564UCLA 9 15 .375 9.0 30 27 .526Wash 7 17 .292 11.0 29 23 .558WSU 6 18 .250 12.0 15 39 .278
The 2001 Cal baseball team, the youngest team in the Pac-10 with the youngest coach, David Esquer (35), has to be considered one of the surprise teams of the conference this season. Predicted to place fifth in the Pac-10 in the preseason coaches poll, the Bears have probably exceeded other people's expectations, but not their own. Cal finished the regular season 33-23 overall and 14-10 in the Pac-10, winning seven of its last nine league games and nine of its last 11 games overall.
'We knew coming into this season that our experience would be in our pitching staff and that we would be inexperienced in the field,' said Esquer, who is in his second year leading the Bears. 'Our pitching has been solid all year long and has kept us in games. With us being inexperienced in six of our field positions, we knew it might take awhile for us to jell, but we were also confident we would have a streak when we would begin to play well as a team.'
And, that is exactly what happened as Cal is now travelling to the South Regional in Baton Rouge, LA. The Bears, the No. 3 seeded team in the tournament, will face No. 2 seed Virginia Commonwealth on Friday, May 25 at 7 p.m. (CDT). The other teams in the South Regional are No. 1 seed LSU and No. 4 seed Minnesota.
As with any successful team, Cal has had several players, both young and old, who have played key roles in the Bears success. On the mound, junior right-hander Trevor Hutchinson has been the team's No. 1 starter all season long. Hutchinson has won his last four starts (at Arizona, versus Stanford, at UCLA, at Kansas State) to even his record to 6-6 with a 3.59 ERA, 83 strikeouts and a team-high 107.7 innings pitched. He has thrown two complete games this season, including an impressive April 27 victory over Stanford (seven hits, one earned run, one walk and 10 strikeouts).
Senior right-hander David Cash has been vital to the Cal pitching staff with his ability to fill any role, throwing in 26 games with six starts. Cash is currently an impressive 10-3 with a 3.87 ERA and three saves, and he leads the team with 87 strikeouts in 88.3 innings. Cash has a career mark of 23-7 with five saves as a Bear, good for fifth on the Cal all-time win list.
Junior left-hander Jason Dennis has started 12 games for the Bears after returning from Tommy John surgery and has 4-3 record with a 5.83 ERA. Dennis has picked up victories against San Jose State, Washington State and Washington and threw a shutout against then-No. 3 ranked Stanford, throwing 8.3 innings with nine hits, no runs, one walk and four strikeouts.
Freshman closer Matt Brown has also been key to Cal's success as he is 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA and leads the Pac-10 with eight saves (second-best Cal single-season mark). Several other pitchers, including seniors Andrew Sproul (4-1, 3.34 ERA, one save) and Ryan Lubner (1-2, 4.56 ERA, one save), and freshmen Brian Montalbo (4-0, 3.79 ERA) and Blake Read (1-0, 4.62 ERA), have been solid for the Bears, accounting for Cal's 4.14 team ERA (third in the Pac-10).
Offensively, senior right fielder Rob Meyer is shining in his final year with the Bears and was named Pac-10 Player of the Week after having an outstanding game May 1 at San Francisco and a stellar final Pac-10 series at UCLA. Meyer, who leads Cal with a .347 average, went 4-for-6 with two RBI at USF and then was 6-for-14 with a double, home run and four RBI against the Bruins. He also had a game-saving diving catch in the bottom of the 10th inning in the Bears 11-inning win over UCLA on May 5.
Junior college transfer Carson White has also been impressive at the plate this season, hitting six doubles in the last six games, including the game-winning two-run double May 8 versus Santa Clara. White is batting .340 overall and leads the Bears in doubles (18), triples (four) and RBI (49). The other top hitters for Cal are all young: sophomore catcher John Baker (.331), sophomore center fielder Ben Conley (.318), freshman third baseman Conor Jackson (.300), freshman shortstop Jeff Dragicevich (.300) and freshman left fielder Brian Horwitz (.296, had school-record 23-game hitting streak from Feb. 9-Mar. 25).
Another extremely valuable hitter is senior first baseman Clint Hoover, who is moving up in the Cal career list as he hit his fourth career grand slam April 21 at Arizona and is now fifth on the Bears chart for home runs (38) and fifth in career RBI (152). Hoover, in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak, is batting .259 with 13 doubles and a team-leading 10 home runs, 49 RBI and has 13 multiple RBI games. Sophomore designated hitter Brad Smith has also been valuable lately at the plate, hitting .252, but more importantly, knocking in the game-winning RBI April 14 versus USC and hitting key home runs against Stanford and Santa Clara.
The pattern of Cal's season has been unique. The Bears started the year with a three-game sweep of Santa Clara and then were up and down the rest of the pre-conference schedule. Cal won two-of-three at Loyola Marymount, but lost series to BYU and UC Santa Barbara, and played Stanford tough in a three-game series at Sunken Diamond (lost 3-1, won 3-2, lost 3-2 in 10 innings).
The Bears began their Pac-10 slate losing two-of-three at home to Arizona State and Washington State. Even though Cal would lose a pair of tight games each to the Sun Devils and the Cougars, the Bears would explode offensively on Sunday's defeating ASU, 17-5, and WSU, 10-1. Cal then got on track with a sweep at Washington, but lost two-of-three at Oregon State, again scoring big on Sunday, winning 12-1. In the Bears first four Pac-10 series, they outscored their opponents, 55-14, on Sundays.
After winning one-of-three versus USC at Evans Diamond, Cal saved its best for last, winning two of three at Arizona, two-of-three at home versus Stanford, sweeping UCLA on the road and sweeping a two-game series at Kansas State. In all, the Bears played in a total of 19 one-run games (8-11), seven extra-inning games (3-4), had a better road record (19-10) than home record (14-13) and were 19-13 against non-conference foes. Cal's 33 wins is its most regular season wins since 1991 and its 14 Pac-10 wins is the most since 1995, the last time the Bears made an NCAA Regional.
'This has definitely been a rewarding season, seeing the program grow from mid-season on,' said Esquer. 'We haven't relied on just one or two guys, but several different players. That is a sign of a good team.'