On the eve of the start of the 2011 NCAA Baseball tournament , it’s time to take a closer look at the California Golden Bears and their opposing teams inside the Houston Bracket. Hosted at Rice University’s Reckling Park, Cal is joined by Rice, Alcorn State, and Baylor inside their regional bracket, not exactly a group of pushovers for the at-large invitee Golden Bears.
This will be Cal’s fourth regional berth since 2001, all under current head coach David Esquer, and the program’s 12th NCAA regional berth all-time. They finished 31-20 on the year, lead by guys like the 2011 Pac-10 Player of the Year Tony Renda (.330 BA, 38 RBI) and Junior catcher Chadd Krist (.297 BA, 35 RBI). As for the pitching staff, senior Kevin Miller (6-4) finished the regular season with a 6-4 record with 78 strikeouts for the year and a 2.24 ERA, while junior Erik Johnson is 6-3 with a 2.08 ERA this season.
Cal’s first opponent will be the Baylor Bears starting Friday at noon. Cal has a 1-0 record versus Baylor all-time, defeating the Bears 8-5 on May 24, 1991 as part of the 1991 NCAA Midwest Regional in Wichita, Kansas. The Golden Bears were supposed to play a three-game set against Baylor in February 2006, but all games were called due to bad weather. The Bears finished 36-24 overall this season, and are lead by sophomore Max Muncy (.329, 9 HR, 43 RBI), shortstop Jake Miller (.295, 3 HR, 25 RBI) and junior right fielder Brooks Pinckard (.295, 2 HR, 16 RBI). The Bears’ tentative starter versus the Golden Bears is sophomore righty Logan Verrett (6-5, 2.81 ERA), but still may change before tomorrow.
Cal will then play either Rice or Alcorn State, both very good teams, but Rice is considered the eighth best team in the tourney, and Cal has no history against Alcorn State. The Bears have a 3-2 all-time record against Rice, including a 7-6 win in 15 innings on March 12 at AT&T Park during the Cal Baseball Classic. In March of 2010, Cal played a four-game series at Reckling Park, winning the first two games, 8-6 and 6-4, then fell 26-11 and 7-4 to finish the series. Rice was 41-19 this season, winners of the C-USA tournament. lead by infielder and Golden Spikes Award Finalist Anthony Rendon with a .327 BA and 57 runs, and Michel Ratteree with 51 RBI and 79 hits this year. On the mound the Owls are lead by Austin Kubitza (6-4 2.33 ERA) and Abe Gonzales (7-2 3.03 ERA)
Alcorn State was another invitee to the tournament, finishing with a 27-28 record for the year. The Braves are making their first ever NCAA tourney appearance, lead by junior pitcher Steve Easter who leads the SWAC with 8 wins.
KALX 90.7 FM will have coverage of the Cal games during the Houston Regional, with their first match with Baylor starting Friday at noon.