Photo by Cal Athletics

Baseball Season Ends With a Thud

June 1, 2019
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The disappointment of a quick postseason exit will fade eventually for the Cal baseball team.

Surely the lasting memories from the Bears' 2019 season will be a combination of gratifying team accomplishments and well-deserved individual recognition.

Cal's season concluded with Saturday's 7-4 loss to Central Connecticut, its second defeat in as many days in the double-elimination NCAA Regionals round.

There were lots of watery eyes as teammates hugged each other in front of the first-base dugout at Baum-Walker Stadium at the University of Arkansas. But an abrupt ending couldn't diminish the joyous ride that the Bears took their fans on.

Picked to finish eighth in the preseason Pac-12 coaches' poll, Cal wound up in fourth behind only UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State, teams that spent the majority of the season in the national top 10. That assured the Bears of their first trip to the postseason since 2015.

"We're disappointed in the weekend obviously," Cal head coach Mike Neu said. "It's tough to lose when you go in with some  expectations to put on a little better weekend. But our guys did a great job all year. I'm just happy with the way we competed all year."  

The Bears knew they were entering the season with the returning national player of the year in first baseman Andrew Vaughn, but it was a mystery how the surrounding cast would form around him.

What took shape was a dynamic offense that included five hitters who batted better than .300, a total of 81 homers that was second highest by any Cal team since 1973 and two of the conference's top three stolen base leaders in Darren Baker and Cameron Eden.

Korey Lee stepped into the starting catcher's role and tied Vaughn for team-high home run honors with 15. His 57 RBI tied for sixth-most in the Pac-12 and he's a semifinalist for the Buster Posey Award as the nation's best collegiate catcher.

Jared Horn emerged as an ace and posted a 2.06 ERA that ranked third in the Pac-12 at the end of Saturday's play. Promising young pitchers like freshmen Sam Stoutenborough, Grant Holman, Sean Sullivan and Ian Villers, just to name a few, provide a solid foundation on the mound for next season and beyond.

Sophomore Quentin Selma began the season in a backup role but became an All Pac-12 third baseman. And the sophomore double-play combo of Baker and Sam Wezniak will form one of the conference's better middle infields entering 2020.

But garnering most of the attention all year was Vaughn, who turned in an outstanding season that earned him another nod as a Golden Spikes finalist. He's expected to be one of the first players taken when the Major League Baseball draft begins Monday.

Speaking in the media room after Saturday's loss, Vaughn spread the praise all around Cal's roster.

"We had freshmen arms come out of nowhere, really, and came and shoved for us, and that was huge," Vaughn said. "Getting Horn to throw like he did this year was phenomenal. We had bats … Korey Lee swung it awesome this year. Everybody one thru nine in the lineup, unbelievable. I just thought we played really good Cal baseball. We showed up."

With Vaughn expected to turn pro after potentially being a top-five pick, surely Cal's coaches will watch with great interest to see where some of the team's other juniors get drafted, and whether there's a chance any of them return to Cal for their senior years.

Lee, Horn, Eden, right fielder Max Flower and pitchers Rogelio Reyes and Arman Sabouri are others who could get their name called over the three-day draft.  

 

 
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