Cal's storybook season comes to an end in Omaha

June 24, 2011, 3:00 am
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June 23, 2011

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- After its roller-coaster season, California is thankful to have next year.

The Bears began the season under the impression there would be no next year for their program. There will be, however, thanks to alumni and boosters and others who raised the money necessary to keep it going.

That is especially comforting to coaches and players of California after its 8-1 loss to Virginia at the College World Series on Thursday night.

The Bears couldn't get their bats going against Virginia starter Tyler Wilson, and their three errors proved costly.

"Obviously, it's disappointing the way (we) went out. Very uncharacteristic of us," Chadd Krist said. "We made it to Omaha a lot of people can't say they've done that and we did it with our best buds. We're disappointed, but celebrate the season a little bit, too."

Cal (38-23) learned during fall practice that its administration planned to cut the program for budgetary reasons in 2012. A number of players started looking for new schools. Many stayed and held out hope.

In April, the players found out that a 9 million fundraising effort had saved the program.

Coach David Esquer called it a "crazy year."

"I think our program and our players proved a lot to themselves that they can take with them the rest of their lives," he said. "They've learned a lot of lessons about perseverance and strength and it's going to help them be better husbands and fathers. It's been a year that has really taught them, as well as myself, a whole lot about human spirit."

The Bears made the NCAA tournament after a sixth-place finish in the Pac-10, and they came back from a six-run deficit in the sixth inning to beat Baylor in a regional final.

But they couldn't get past Wilson, an unbeaten senior who allowed five hits and carried a shutout into the eighth inning.

"All yearlong, whenever we've needed a great outing, maybe after a difficult loss, he's responded every time for his team," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. "He was the right guy to give the ball to tonight. He went out there and charged the mound and gave us everything that he had."

Virginia (56-11) will face defending national champion South Carolina in the Bracket 2 final. The Cavs, who lost 7-1 to the Gamecocks on Tuesday, would need to beat them on Friday and again Saturday to reach next week's best-of-three championship round.

Wilson (10-0) held the Bears to two hits through five innings and retired 11 in a row from the second to sixth. He matched his career high of 7 2-3 innings, striking out five and walking none.

Cal starter Dixon Anderson (4-4) took the loss, failing to get past the third inning for the third time in five starts.

Virginia broke open the game with a four-run sixth that started when Kenny Swab singled into center field and kept running until he got home after the ball got past center fielder Darrel Matthews.

Matthews misplayed the bounce on Swab's hard drive and the ball rolled to the wall, bringing the overflow crowd of 25,833 to its feet. It was Matthews' first error in 50 games this season.

"I saw him kind of trying to make a short-hop catch on it, and it went by, so I just started running as hard as I could," Swab said.

Anderson hit Taylor with the first pitch of the game. His wild pitch in the third let Jared King score the first run. Anderson's throw to first on Werman's sacrifice bunt pulled Devon Rodriguez off the bag, and Werman scored on a sacrifice fly.

Wilson left in the eighth after Cal put two runners on base. Cody Winiarski relieved, and Tony Renda ended the shutout with an RBI single. That was it for the Bears.

"One of the first things I thought was, 'Is it really over?' I couldn't really believe it," Pac-10 player of the year Renda said. "The second thought was, 'Let's win it next year.'"