Cal's storybook season comes to an end in Omaha

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Cal's storybook season comes to an end in Omaha

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.'"

As Samardzija ages, it isn't as easy to lose the weight gained in offseason

As Samardzija ages, it isn't as easy to lose the weight gained in offseason

Jeff Samardzija is entering Year 2 of the five-year contract he signed with the Giants following the 2015 season.

With spring training underway, what is the hardest part about getting his body and mind prepared for the upcoming campaign?

"The pitching aspects of things, the older I get, the more they kind of just fall right in line with feeling my mechanics out," Samardzija explained on KNBR 680 on Wednesday morning. "For me, it's probably the cardio (laughter). The older I get, the more I realize that you put more weight on in the offseason, then it's a little harder to get off.

"You hear about it, right? You hear about it all the time when you're younger ... and my offseasons, I like to have offseasons. I don't watch my calories. I don't watch my intake (I don't really watch any of that anyways). But the offseason -- I have fun, I relax ... then you get working out again and usually those first five or six poles, two-mile runs, camelback hikes -- they're always pretty interesting the first couple times."

The former college wide receiver is listed at 225 pounds.

Samardzija turned 32 years old in January and is entering his 10th big-league season.

He went 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA over 32 starts last year.

Over his final 10 starts, he went 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA.

"The splitter came back for me there toward the end of the year," Samardzija said. "I kind of brought the curveball in to not replace, but kind of take up some of the space of the splitter that wasn't there.

"And then come September, the splitter showed up and then we had the curveball and we ran with it from there."

I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

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I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

In late December, I was invited to play in a pick-up hockey game with some other members of the local sports media community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was one of only two women there that day. Even now, female ice hockey players aren’t exactly common.

After the game, a reporter I’ve known a while – a guy I like a lot – said to me: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you skate like a man.” I didn’t take it wrong, of course; he meant it as a compliment. The reporter wanted nothing more than to tell me I’d impressed him.

I thought about this exchange a lot in the days that followed. Had someone told me I played hockey like a boy when I was 15, I would have worn that description like a badge. Hell yeah, 15-year-old Sarah would have thought, I do play like a boy. I’m as tough as a boy. I’m as fierce and competitive as any boy on my team. I would have reveled in it, just as I reveled in a similar label I’d received even earlier in my adolescence: tomboy.

Yeah, I was a tomboy. I hung around with the neighborhood boys, riding bikes between each other’s houses or catching salamanders in the creek that ran through town. I loved sports, and my bedroom walls -- papered with newspaper clippings and photos of Flyers players -- were a far cry from the pink-tinged rooms that belonged to the girls at school. 

As much as I could, I dressed like a boy too, even once cutting the sleeves off of an oversized T-shirt before I went out to rollerblade with our next-door neighbors. My grandmother, who was visiting at the time, pulled me aside to tell me I really ought to dress more appropriately. I rolled my eyes.
I was a tomboy, and I loved the word and everything it stood for. I felt pride in my tomboyishness, believing that the things I liked – the things boys liked – were clearly better than the things stereotypically left to the girls.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it was a conversation with a 15-year-old that changed my perspective, just a few days after my reporter friend had compared my hockey skills to those of a man. I sat down with Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitching phenom, for this very project. I asked her if she identified as a tomboy, and she shrugged. Not really, she said. Maybe other people wanted to define her that way, she suggested, but that wasn’t how she viewed things.

You know that record scratch sound effect they play on TV or in the movies? The one that denotes a sort of “wait … what?!” moment? That’s what happened in my head. Mo’ne Davis, the girl who played on the boys’ team and excelled, didn’t consider herself a tomboy?

Something clicked in my head after that. I’ve long identified as a feminist, and I’ve been a big supporter of girls in sports for as long as I can remember. I coach girls hockey, I’ve spoken at schools and camps about playing and working in sports as a woman. For some reason, though, it took a 15-year-old shrugging her shoulders at the label “tomboy” to take the power out of the word for me. Why does one have to be a tomboy, when one can simply be a girl who kicks ass? How had I never considered this before?

In many ways (and especially in sports) if something is male, it’s considered superior. It goes beyond just the things kids like to do, and it’s all old news. It’s also something I’m ashamed to admit I’ve bought into for practically all of my life. But no longer. How can I help change the narrative if I’m too busy playing along with it?

And if I could do it over, when that reporter approached me after our hockey game to tell me I skated like a man, I would have smiled, shook my head and said: Nah. But I skate like a darn good woman.