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Cal Clinches Berth in Pac-12 Baseball Tournament by Clobbering Utah

Golden Bears win two straight games against the Utes by a combined margin of 31-3

Cal clinched a spot in the Pac-12 baseball tournament with its 18-2 victory over Utah Friday night in Berkeley, but the Golden Bears' seeding in the tournament and their opening opponent have yet to be determined.

The pitching of Cal starter Steven Zobac, who threw six shutout innings, put the Bears on the way to their fifth straight victory, improving their record to 27-25 overall and 13-16 in the conference. That ensures that Cal will finish no worse than eighth in the conference standings with only Saturday's game against Utah remaining in the regular season.  The top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Utah (26-26-1) slipped to 10-19 in the conference, dropping the Utes into 10th place behind Washington State. The Utes needed to win two of the three games in this final series to wrest the eighth and final spot in the Pac-12 tournament away from Cal. But the Bears never let the Utes get a sniff of success, outscoring the Utes 31-3 in the first two games combined.

Cal is currently tied with Arizona State for seventh place, a game behind Washington, whose Pac-12 regular season is complete. The Bears could still wind up with the No. 6 seed or the No. 7 seed or the No. 8 seed. Here are the scenarios:

If Cal wins Saturday and Arizona State loses to Washington State on Saturday, Cal and Washington would be tied for sixth, but Cal would win the tiebreaker for the No. 6 seed because of a better record against the Huskies. The Sun Devils would be the eighth seed.

If Cal loses Saturday and Arizona State wins that day, Arizona State would be the No. 6 seed and Cal would be the No. 8 seed behind Washington.

If Cal and Arizona State both win Saturday, Arizona State, Cal and Washington would be tied for sixth place, and Arizona State would be the No. 6 seed because of a better record against Cal and Washington.  Cal would be the No. 7 seed because of its record against the Huskies, and Washington would be eighth.

If Cal and Arizona State both lose Saturday, Arizona State would be the No. 7 seed because it had the better record against Cal, and the Bears would be the No. 8 seed.

If Cal ends up as the No. 8 seed, its first game in the Pac-12 tournament would be against Stanford, which has clinched the No. 1 seed. However, UCLA and Oregon State will determined the No. 2 seed when they play again on Saturday.

Cal needs to win the Pac-12 tournament to get into the NCAA tournament, but there are several reasons for the Bears to be optimistic about their chances in the conference tournament.

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--The Bears have won five in a row, winning those five games by a combined margin of 73-8, while averaging 14.6 runs over those five contests.

 --Zobac pitched the first six innings for Cal on Friday and he allowed no runs on just three hits with two walks, one hit batter and 11 strikeouts.  It was the fifth time in his last seven appearances that he did not give up a run, and he had 23 strikeouts in his past two starts. A dominating pitcher like Zobac could make a major difference in the double-elimination Pac-12 tournament.

--Cal's No. 9 hitter, Dom Souto, was not part of the Bears' lineup at the start of the season, but he is their leading hitter now.  He was 3-for-5 on Friday and is hitting .376..

All nine hitters in the Bears' starting lineup had at least one hit and at least one run scored, and the Bears took control of the game early, scoring seven runs in the first two innings. Zobac took care of the rest.

Cole Elvis was 3-for-5 with a long home run and three RBIs, and Rodney Green Jr. was 2-for-5 with a home run and four runs batted in.


Cover photo of Steven Zobac


Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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