Cal is just one victory from clinching a berth in the Pac-12 baseball tournament after Dom Souto's grand slam in an eight-run fifth inning helped the Bears beat Utah 13-1 Thursday night in the first game of this critical three-game series in Berkeley.
Whichever team wins this final regular-season series will get the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament, to be held in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Bears (26-25) are now 12-16 in the conference and in eighth place, two games ahead of Utah (26-25-1, 10-18 Pac-12). So if Cal wins Friday night's game or Saturday afternoon's contest, the Bears will finish no worse than alone in eighth place. Only the top eight teams qualifying for the conference tournament.
However, if Utah wins the final two games of the series, the Utes would finish tied for eighth place with Cal, and Utah's edge in head-to-head games against Cal would give the Utes the eighth and final tournament berth and would end Cal's season.
Cal's win on Thursday was aided by the wildness of Utah pitchers, who issued 10 walks.
Five of those walks came in the fifth inning when Cal broke a 1-1 tie by scoring eight runs on just three hits to make it 9-1. The big hit of the fifth was a two-out, bases-loaded home run by No. 9 hitter Souto, who had scored the first run of the inning when he came home on a wild pitch by Utah reliever Zac McCleve.
Souto was 2-for-3 with five RBIs and three runs scores, Cole Elvis finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs, and Nathan Martorella extended his hitting streak to 16 games by going 2-for-3 with a homer, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs..
Starter Joseph King (5-3) got the win for Cal, giving up eight hits but just one run while striking out six and walking one in 6 2/3 innings.
Steven Zobac, will get the start for Cal on Friday, hoping to get the victory that clinches a Pac-12 tournament berth. Over his last six appearances, covering 27 innings, he has allowed just five earned runs, and he yielded no runs in four of those six appearances..
Cover photo of Dom Souto by Marcus Edwards, KLC fotos
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