No. 23 Cal Baseball Opens Season Feb. 22-24 Versus Kansas State and Utah Valley

Feb. 14, 2008

BERKELEY, CALIF. -

Fri., Feb. 22 Kansas State Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif. 1:30 p.m.Sat., Feb. 23 Utah Valley (2) Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif. 11:00 a.m.Sun., Feb. 24 Kansas State Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif. 1:00 p.m.

BEAR NOTES: California, under the direction of ninth-year head coach David Esquer, opens its 2008 season with four home games at Evans Diamond during the Feb. 22-24 weekend. On Feb. 22, Cal plays Kansas State at 1:30 p.m.; on Saturday, Feb. 23 the Bears will play a doubleheader against Utah Valley beginning at 11 a.m.; and on Sunday, Feb. 24, Cal will play Kansas State at 1 p.m. in a single game. The Bears, ranked 23rd in Perfect Game's preseason poll, features three preseason All-Americans; junior right-hander Tyson Ross, a 2007 first-team All-Pac-10 selection after striking out 120 batters in 115.2 innings; junior right-hander Matt Gorgen, who finished last season with nine saves and led the conference with 31 appearances; and junior first-baseman David Cooper, who batted .382 with 12 home runs and earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. The Bears also feature junior left-hander Craig Bennigson, and sophomore outfielders Jeff Kobernus and Blake Smith - all honorable mention All-Pac-10 selections in 2007. Bennigson was 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA and notched Pac-10 wins versus USC and UCLA. Kobernus led the team with 13 stolen bases, was second on the squad with a .331 average and was named a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American. Smith finished his frosh season batting .320 with six home runs and 30 RBI, while also striking out 23 batters in 21.1 innings on the mound. Additionally, Cal showcases junior catcher Charlie Cutler and senior second baseman Josh Satin, both 2007 Cape Cod League all-stars, and senior right-hander Alex Rollin, who was 10th in Pac-10 last season with eight victories. Seven of the Bears' opponents this season were 2007 NCAA Regional participants, including two-time defending national champion Oregon State, who will visit Evans Diamond Apr. 4-6, 2008.

SERIES RECORD: Cal has a 2-0 record against the Kansas State Wildcats. The Bears won two at Tointon Stadium in Manhattan, Kan., May 12-13, 2001 (6-4, 16-10). Cal will be playing Utah Valley for the first time in school history.

HEAD COACH David Esquer: Esquer, 42, is in his ninth season at Cal with a career record of 220-215 (.517). In 2001, he was Pac-10 Coach of the Year after leading the Bears to a 34-25 mark and a berth to the NCAA Regional in Baton Rouge, La. (1-2). Thirty nine Cal players have signed professional contracts since Esquer became coach, including first round picks Brandon Morrow (RHP, Seattle, fifth overall) in 2006 and Conor Jackson (INF., Arizona, 19th overall) in 2003. On June 10, 1999, Esquer became the 10th coach in Cal baseball history, which began in 1892. He came to Berkeley after serving as the top assistant at Pepperdine from 1996-99, and the No. 2 assistant at Stanford from 1991-96. A shortstop at Stanford from 1984-87, he was a starter on the 1987 College World Series championship team, earning All-Tournament honors. Esquer went on to play professional baseball for four seasons with the Baltimore, California and Milwaukee organizations.

TENTATIVE CALIFORNIA LINE-UPNo.	Pos.	Player	2007 stats31	DH	Rich Gorman, So. .302, 2 RBI, 0 HR16	C	Charlie Cutler, Jr. .310, 27 RBI, 2 HR23	3B	Jeff Kobernus, So. .331, 22 RBI, 1 HR18	1B	David Cooper, Jr. .382, 55 RBI, 12 HR3	2B	Josh Satin, Sr. .287, 41 RBI, 4 HR4	CF	Brett Jackson, So. .230, 4 RBI, 0 HR37	RF	Blake Smith, So. .320, 30 RBI, 6 HR29	LF	Ryan Hanlon, Jr. .265, 19 RBI, 3 HR26	SS	Michael Brady, Jr. .271, 26 RBI, 4 HR44	RHP	Tyson Ross, Jr. (Fri.) 6-6, 2.51 ERA27	LHP	Craig Bennigson, Jr. (Sat.) 5-3, 3.34 ERA46	RHP	Alex Rollin, Sr. (Sat.) 8-5, 4.91 ERA36	LHP	Chris Petrini, So. (Sun.) 3-2, 4.54 ERA in `06

NOTING KANSAS STATE AND UTAH VALLEY: The Kansas State Wildcats, coached by Brad Hill (fourth year at KS, 120-99-2, .547), begin their 2008 season at Cal. Top returning hitters for the Wildcats are junior outfielder Byron Wiley (.366, 7 HR, 44 RBI), sophomore outfielder Adam Muenster (.294, 1 HR, 20 RBI) and senior utility Derek Bunker (.288, 2 HR, 28 RBI). Kansas State's tentative pitching rotation (`07 stats) is senior right-hander Brad Hutt (9-4, 3.07 ERA) and TBA. In 2007, Kansas State finished 34-24 overall, 10-16 (eighth) in the Big 12. The Utah Valley Wolverines, coached by Steve Gardner (18th year at UV, 454-395, .535), begin their 2008 season at Santa Clara Feb. 22 before playing the Bears in a Feb. 23 doubleheader. Top returning hitters for the Wolverines are sophomore third baseman Jace Brinkerhoff (.371, 4 HR, 26 RBI) and senior outfielder Tyler Garretson (.294, 0 HR, 10 RBI). Utah Valley's tentative pitching rotation (`07 stats) is senior right-hander Bryan Smith (2-4, 7.01 ERA) and senior right-hander Aaron Brady (1-3, 2.92 ERA at San Diego State). In 2007, Utah Valley, an independent, finished 25-30 overall.

IMPRESSIVE ROSS: Junior team captain and 6-6 right-hander Tyson Ross is named a 2008 preseason All-American by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and Rivals.com, and is a Wallace Award candidate. He is coming off an outstanding 2007 summer season with the USA National Team, finishing 4-1 with a 0.82 ERA, striking out 39 batters with only seven walks in 43.2 innings. Ross picked up two victories against The Netherlands, a victory over the Dominican Republic at the PanAm Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and a victory over Japan. A first-team All-Pac-10 selection last spring, he finished 6-6 and was second in the league with a 2.49 ERA and third in the conference with 120 strikeouts in 115.2 innings. His 120 strikeouts were second on the Cal all-time single-season strikeout list and he threw at least 6.0 innings in 15 of his 17 starts, and 7.0 innings or more 11 times, including a complete game at Stanford. Ross was also named a semifinalist for the Golden Spike Award, and on Mar. 25, 2007, he was picked as the National Player of the Week by Collegiate Baseball after striking out 16 batters (three away from the school record of 19 set by Larry Colton in 1963) with only one walk in 7.0 innings against Oral Roberts. Ross was noted for fielding as well, winning the Rawlings Gold Glove award as the nation's best fielding pitcher. For his career, Ross now has 205 strikeouts (ninth on Cal's career list) in 200.1 innings with a 2.79 ERA.

CLUTCH HITTING COOPER: Junior left-handed first baseman David Cooper is a Baseball America preseason All-American and a 2008 Wallace Award candidate as well. Cal's top newcomer in 2007, Cooper was a transfer from Cal State Fullerton, where he was a member of the 2006 College World Series All-Tournament team. An All-Pac-10 selection and team MVP in 2007 for the Bears, Cooper batted a team-leading .382 with a team-best 14 doubles, 12 home runs and 55 RBI. He also paced Cal with a .627 slugging percentage, 30 walks and had a .450 on-base percentage. Cooper was third in the Pac-10 in batting average, fifth in the league in slugging and on-base percentage, and seventh in the conference in home runs. In 2006, he flirted with a College World Series record when he had seven consecutive hits in Omaha, tying Terry Francona (1980) and one short of Dave Magadan (1983) and Barry Bonds (1984). Cooper led all players at the 2006 World Series with a .533 average (8-for-15) with five RBI.

STRIKEOUT CLOSER GORGEN: The Bears' other Louisville Slugger and Rivals.com preseason All-American, and third Wallace Award candidate, is hard-throwing junior closer Matt Gorgen. An honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection last season, Gorgen was one of 40 players on the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch List, having struck out 75 batters in 61.0 innings with a 2.51 ERA (third in the Pac-10). He also led the Pac-10 with 31 appearances, was sixth in the league with nine saves (second on the Cal all-time single season list), and 38 of his 75 strikeouts were called looking (second in the Pac-10). In 60 career appearances, Gorgen now has 109 strikeouts in 100.2 innings, and is eighth on Cal's career save list (11 saves). His twin brother, Scott, is a starting pitcher at UC Irvine.

CAL PICKED FIFTH IN PAC-10 PRESEASON POLL: The Bears were tabbed fifth in the 2008 Pac-10 preseason poll behind Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and two-time defending national champion Oregon State; and ahead of Stanford, USC, Washington State and Washington. Arizona is the No. 1-ranked team in Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll, and UCLA is the No. 1-ranked team in Baseball America's preseason poll. The Bears barely missed the NCAA tournament in 2007, finishing 29-26 overall and were alone in fourth place in the Pac-10 with a 12-12 record. Cal won six of their last eight games, including sweeping USC at Evans Diamond, and earlier won series against World Series qualifiers UC Irvine and Arizona State. The Bears also shut out two-time defending national champion Oregon State, 4-0, in Corvallis. Cal was the only team in the conference to win two-of-three games over Pac-10 champion ASU when the Bears upset the then-No. 7-ranked Sun Devils at Evans Diamond. In the final league stats, Cal was third with a .974 fielding percentage, fourth with a 4.48 team ERA and fifth with a .303 team batting average.

ADDITIONAL BEAR NOTES: Cal is 5-3 in season-openers under head coach David Esquer...former Bear catcher Bob Melvin (1980), manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, was named the 2007 National League Manager of the Year...former Cal standout Conor Jackson is a first baseman for the Diamondbacks...the 2008 Bears have two infielders, redshirt freshman Austin Booker and true freshman Brian Guinn, who are sons of former Cal standouts and professional ballplayers Rod Booker (1979-80) and Brian Guinn, Sr. (1981-83)...video of junior right-hander Tyson Ross pitching for Team USA this summer is available on the right sidebar on the baseball page of calbears.com...other videos are available, including Cal baseball players and coaches, Dan Hubbs and Jon Zuber, featured on KQED's Out of the Park: The Physics of Baseball.

DID YOU KNOW?

*Cal won the inaugural College World Series title in 1947, defeating former President George Bush's Yale team, 8-7, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

*The Golden Bears have had two players become league MVPs in professional baseball - Jackie Jensen was the American League MVP in 1958 and Jeff Kent was the National League MVP in 2001.

*Cal is one of only 20 schools that have won NCAA Baseball titles and only one of 12 schools that have won more than one national championship (1947, 1957). The Bears have competed in five College World Series (1947, 1957, 1980, 1988, 1992).

*Geoff Blum, Cal's starting shortstop as a freshman on the Bears' 1992 College World Series team, had a game-winning homer for the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 Major League World Series.

*In 2006 the Bears had a school-record five players selected in the first 10 rounds of the Major League Amateur Draft, including junior right-hander Brandon Morrow, the fifth pick overall by the Seattle Mariners.

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