Cal Baseball Opens 2009 Campaign Hosting UC Riverside and Vanderbilt

Feb. 16, 2009


Fri., Feb. 20 UC Riverside Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif. 1:30 p.m.Sat., Feb. 21 UC Riverside Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif. 1:00 p.m.Sun., Feb. 22 Vanderbilt   Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif. 1:00 p.m.Mon., Feb. 23 Vanderbilt   Evans Diamond, Berkeley, Calif. 1:00 p.m.

BEAR NOTES: California, under the direction of 10th-year head coach David Esquer, opens its 2009 season with a four-game home stand Feb. 20-24 at Evans Diamond. On Feb. 20-21, Cal plays UC Riverside (Big West) at 1:30 p.m. and 1 p.m.; then Feb. 22-23 the Bears host Vanderbilt (SEC) in 1 p.m. tilts. Cal, ranked 39th in Collegiate Baseball's preseason poll, features 2009 preseason All-Americans Brett Jackson and Blake Smith, 2008 Freshman All-American Kevin Miller, 2007 Freshman All-American Jeff Kobernus and 2008 George Wolfman Award winner Dylan Tonneson, among others. Junior center fielder Jackson was named a first-team preseason All-American by Baseball America after batting .307, leading Cal in triples (four) and stolen bases (12), and knocking in 40 RBI last season. Junior outfielder/first baseman/right-hander Smith is a second-team preseason All-American utility player in Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball after excelling as both a position player and pitcher for the Bears and the USA National Team. Sophomore right-hander Miller was a Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American and honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection after going 6-1 with a 2.90 ERA in `08. Junior infielder Kobernus has been solid the past two seasons, switching from the outfield to the infield last season while owning a .315 career average with 24 stolen bases. Junior catcher Tonneson was tabbed as the Bears' most improved player last year after hitting .306 with 12 doubles, six home runs and 33 RBI. Nine of Cal's opponents this season were 2008 NCAA Regional participants, including Vanderbilt, and the Bears' 2009 schedule is considered the nation's third toughest by Boyd's World.

SERIES RECORD: Cal has a 2-2 record against the UC Riverside Highlanders. In the last meeting, the Bears won, 9-7, March 23, 1987 at the UC Riverside Invitational. Cal will be playing Vanderbilt for the first time in school history.

HEAD COACH David Esquer: Esquer, 43, is in his 10th season at Cal with a career record of 263-236-2 (.527). In 2001, he was Pac-10 Coach of the Year after the Bears went 34-25 and earned a berth to the Baton Rouge NCAA Regional (1-2). Last year, Esquer's squad was 33-21-2 and competed in the Long Beach NCAA Regional (0-2). Forty five Cal players have signed professional contracts since Esquer became coach, including first round picks David Cooper (1B, Toronto, 17th overall) in 2008, 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. He came to Berkeley after serving as top assistant at Pepperdine (1996-99), and No. 2 assistant at Stanford (1991-96). A shortstop at Stanford from 1984-87, he started 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	2008 stats2	DH	Brian Guinn, So. .316, 4 RBI, 0 HR26	SS	Michael Brady, Sr. .241, 29 RBI, 5 HR23	3B	Jeff Kobernus, Jr. .303, 27 RBI, 3 HR37	1B	Blake Smith, Jr. .296, 43 RBI, 12 HR4	CF	Brett Jackson, Jr. .307, 40 RBI, 4 HR33	C	Dylan Tonneson, Jr. .306, 33 RBI, 6 HR5	RF	Mark Canha, So. .270, 6 RBI, 0 HR29	LF	Ryan Hanlon, Sr. .148, 2 RBI, 0 HR31	2B	Rich Gorman, Jr. .268, 20 RBI, 4 HR41	RHP	Kevin Miller, So. (Fri.) 6-1, 2.90 ERA36	LHP	Chris Petrini, Jr. (Sat.) 3-3, 7.05 ERA37	RHP	Blake Smith, Jr. (Sun.) 3-0, 3.80 ERA		TBA (Mon.)

NOTING UC RIVERSIDE AND VANDERBILT: The UC Riverside Highlanders, coached by Doug Smith (fourth year at UCR, 116-106, .522), begin their 2009 season at Cal. Top returning hitters for the Highlanders are junior outfielder Joey Gonzales (.330, 4 HR, 29 RBI), sophomore infielder Trevor Hairgrove (.278, 0 HR, 6 RBI) and senior outfielder Carl Uhl (.272, 2 HR, 23 RBI). UC Riverside's tentative pitching rotation (`08 stats) is junior left-hander Paul Bargas (2-6, 6.19 ERA) and freshman right-hander Matt Andriese. In 2008, the Highlanders finished 21-33 overall, 14-10 (third tied) in the Big West. The Vanderbilt Commodores, coached by Tim Corbin (fifth year at VU, 198-108, .647), begin their 2009 season with a two-game series at Stanford before playing the Bears Feb. 22-23. Top returning hitters for the Commodores are junior catcher Andrew Giobbi (.332, 3 HR, 42 RBI), sophomore outfielder Steven Liddle (.310, 0 HR, 28 RBI) and senior outfielder Jonathan White (.286, 2 HR, 12 RBI). Vanderbilt's tentative pitching rotation (`08 stats) is senior right-hander Nick Christiani (6-3, 4.97 ERA) and TBA. In 2008, the Commodores finished 41-22 overall, 15-14 (fourth) in the SEC East and 1-2 in the NCAA Tempe, Ariz. Regional.

JACKSON'S HONORS: Junior center fielder Brett Jackson has been named a 2009 first-team preseason All-American by Baseball America and a preseason All-Pac-10 selection by Baseball America and Jackson is Cal's first, first-team preseason All-America selection since outfielder Brennan Boesch in 2006. Earlier he was named the nation's 13th best player by The College Baseball Blog. An outstanding left-handed hitting outfielder who was honorable mention All-Pac-10 last season, Jackson was also selected the eighth-best prospect out of the Cape Cod League by Baseball America, hitting .238 with six doubles, four home runs, 14 RBI and eight stolen bases this past summer for the Cotuit Kettleers. Last spring, Jackson (6-2, 210 pounds) batted .307 (62-for-202, .302 versus the Pac-10) with seven doubles, four triples (fourth in the Pac-10), four home runs and 40 RBI for the Bears. He led the team with 12 stolen bases (eighth in the Pac-10) and hit his first career grand slam May 2 versus Arizona. Jackson finished the year batting .333 (23-for-69) with runners in scoring position. He was a 2008 honorable mention Pac-10 All-Academic selection as well, majoring in sociology.

MULTI-TALENTED SMITH: Junior left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing outfielder/pitcher/first baseman Blake Smith is a second-team preseason All-American utility player in both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball. Earlier Smith was named the nation's 16th best player, according to The College Baseball Blog, and was selected to the 2009 Wallace Award Watch List as a player of the year candidate. Additionally, he was named the seventh best prospect from Team USA by Baseball America in early September. Smith was instrumental in the USA Baseball National (Collegiate) Team capturing the gold medal at the IV FISU World Collegiate Baseball Championship in the Czech Republic this past summer as the USA squad topped Japan, 1-0 in 12 innings for the title on July 27. He not only helped pace Team USA to an undefeated 24-0 record, he was the team's leading hitter during the national team's summer tour with a .327 average. Smith finished the summer 18-for-55 (.327) overall with five doubles, a triple, three home runs and 13 RBI in 20 games. He was also one of the national team's top relievers, sporting a 1-0 record with a 0.00 ERA and two saves, striking out 11 batters with only three hits and three walks in 9.0 innings. Another highlight for Smith was going 1-for-3 with a home run versus the Cuban squad that competed in the Beijing Olympics. Last spring, Smith batted .296 with 11 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs and 43 RBI for Cal. On the mound, he was 3-0 with a 3.80 ERA and had 36 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. Smith also threw two runners out at the plate from right field during the year and hit a two-run homer against Long Beach State at the NCAA Regional in Long Beach.

MASTERFUL MILLER: The Bears have another Wallace Award candidate in sophomore right-hander Kevin Miller. Miller was a 2008 Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American last season, as well as honorable mention All-Pac-10, finishing 6-1 with a 2.90 ERA. He had 68 strikeouts in 71.1 innings and started his college career in impressive fashion, not giving up an earned run in his first 44.0 innings on the mound. Miller was second in the Pac-10 with a 2.90 ERA and a .196 opponent batting average. Some of Miller's top games in `08 included striking out a career-high eight batters in 6.2 innings versus Washington on Apr. 19, and defeating two-time defending national champion Oregon State in relief, throwing 6.2 innings with seven strikeouts. He ended up making 21 appearances with five starts, picking up six straight wins from March 11 through May 11.

CAL BITS: The Bears are 6-3 in season-openers under head coach David Esquer...Esquer, who was mentioned as the Pac-10's 'Coach on the Rise' by, has now mentored seven All-Americans since 2000, including three freshman All-Americans in the last four years...last season, second baseman Josh Satin was Cal's first, first-team All-American in Baseball America since Troy Penix in 1992, and first baseman David Cooper was a member of four different All-America 2008, the Bears twice defeated eventual national champion Fresno State (14-4 in San Diego, 5-4 in Berkeley)...Cal's 2009 schedule is considered the third toughest in the nation by Boyd's World, behind UCLA and Stanford...the Bears are predicted to qualify for the 2009 NCAA Austin, Texas Regional by Baseball America as the No. 3 seed team behind Texas and Arkansas and ahead of Texas-San Antonio...Cal will be looking for back-to-back regional appearances for the first time since 1991-92 under former head coach Bob Milano...Milano, who guided the Bears from 1978-1999 and led them to three College World Series (third place finish in 1980), will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame during the ABCA's January, 2010 convention...he will join Clint Evans and George Wolfman as Cal coaches in the ABCA Hall of Fame...Evans led Cal to the first-ever CWS title in 1947 and Wolfman led the Bears to the 1957 national championship...the 2009 Bears have two sophomore infielders, Austin Booker and Brian Guinn, who are sons of former Cal standouts and professional ballplayers Rod Booker (1979-80) and Brian Guinn, Sr. (1981-83), while freshman infielder Marcus Semien is the son of former Cal wide receiver Damian Semien (1990-93)...

*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 (1947, 49) 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 - the highest draft pick in Cal history.

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