Red-Hot Cal Advances to Semifinals of Pac-12 Baseball Tournament

Peyton Schulze hits two homers in win over Arizona to improve Cal’s chances of landing an NCAA Tournament berth
Luke Short
Luke Short / Leroy Yau

Red-hot Cal advanced to Friday’s semifinals of the Pac-12 baseball tournament largely because of the power hitting of Peyton Schulze.

Schulze belted two home runs and drove in five runs to lead Cal to a 7-5 victory over regular-season conference champion Arizona on Thursday night in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the final game of pool play.

Cal (36-18) went 2-0 in pool play and will face fourth-seeded USC in Friday’s 2:30 p.m. semifinal game, which will be followed at 7 p.m. by a semifinal contest between eighth-seeded Stanford and Arizona, which earned the final spot by being the highest-seeded second-place finisher in pool play.

The Bears are rolling. They have won six in a row, 10 of their last 11 games, and 20 of their past 24 games.

And Thursday’s win over the top-seeded Wildcats (34-21) may have been the victory that ensured an NCAA Tournament berth for Cal.

Cal had an RPI ranking of 63 Thursday morning, and that is typically a little low for NCAA tournament consideration.  The Bears were 57th in the RPI ratings as of Thursday morning, and that metric is also used by the selection committee.

More important are the Golden Bears’ overall record, their strong finish to the season and Thursday’s win over the regular-season conference champion. Add in the Bears’ three-game series sweep over Oregon State (RPI 18) back in April and Cal had a strong argument to be part of the 64-team NCAA tournament field.

Before the Pac-12 tournament began, most NCAA tournament projections had the Golden Bears on the cusp, but just outside the NCAA tournament field.

Cal will find out whether it gets into the postseason on Monday when the field for the NCAA tournament is announced. But Cal could remove all doubt by winning the Pac-12 tournament because the conference tournament champion gets an automatic NCAA berth.

Cal looked like an NCAA team on Thursday. The star was Schulze, who belted a three-run home run in the third inning to give Cal a 3-0 lead, the smoked a two-run home run homer in the fifth to make it a 7-1 game.  And both homers were gigantic blasts that Schulze could stand and admire as they flew far over the left-field fence.

Here is Schulze's second homer of the game, and his 10th of the season

Cal starting pitcher Luke Short (6-2) was outstanding for the first five innings. He struck seven through the first three innings without giving up a run, then left with one out in the sixth holding a 7-2 lead.

Things got a little dicey when Arizona’s Maddox Mikalakis hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to make it 7-5, but Cal reliever Christian Becerra got out of a one-out, one-on situation in the bottom of the ninth when Richie Morales lined into a game-ending double play.

NOTE: It was announced Thursday that Cal baseball head coach Mike Neu has agreed to a contract extension. He is in his seventh season as the Golden Bears head coach

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Jake Curtis


Jake Curtis worked in the San Francisco Chronicle sports department for 27 years, covering virtually every sport, including numerous Final Fours, several college football national championship games, an NBA Finals, world championship boxing matches and a World Cup. He was a Cal beat writer for many of those years, and won awards for his feature stories.