Saint Mary's vs. Cal -- The pairing that wasn't

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Saint Mary's vs. Cal -- The pairing that wasn't

Randy Bennett said all the right things about Purdue, about the NCAA Tournament, about whatever he had to say about whomever he had to say them. So did Matthew Dellavedova and Rob Jones and Mark Orr.

But what they WANTED to say was this:

We wanted Cal. Were happy with what we got, we know Purdue blah-blah-blah, but we wanted Cal.

Cal, as in California, not Calipari. Nobody in Moraga is that goofball wacky.

Cal drew South Florida Wednesday in Dayton in one of the four play-in games, and whatever resentments the Golden Bear community expressed at being so close to missing the tournament entirely remain its own. As unlikely as a full omission seemed, having to wait until the 57th name to learn that it was in the tournament at all caused the atmosphere around Berkeley to be filled with whew!

RELATED: Saint Mary's to open up tournament vs. Purdue

But as the bracket picked up passengers through the hour and neither Cal nor St. Marys (which was named 63rd) was mentioned, the more the people inside McKeon Pavilion dared to dream of the one bit of recognition they still crave.

Beating the big brother.

It is a statement of faith that Cal has wanted nothing to do with St. Marys for a long time now, and definitely since the Gallopers escaped the iron lung eight years ago. And whether or not that is fact, it is fact-ish enough for them.

So as the bracket narrowed, you could hear people inside the pavilion dare to hope that the NCAA Tournament Committee had a sense of humor independent of WCC commissioner Jamie Zaninovich, who was outside the room when any of his clients were discussed.

Indeed, the most interesting part of the bracket as it relates to St. Marys was not the Purdue matchup, or the potential third-round game with Kansas, but the other hidden fact that the committee couldnt separate the Gaels and Gonzaga, which was the seven-seed slotted RIGHT BEFORE St. Marys in the East.

That seems odd given Saint Marys beating the Zags in the conference and the conference tournament, but Gonzaga got its own punishment by drawing West Virginia in Pittsburgh, and then getting Ohio State in the next round if the Mountaineers get beaten. In short, the Zags play two road games against teams that will bring more fans.
RELATED: Cal receives a No. 12 seed in NCAA Tournament

As for Cal, dealing two days early with the ugly-it-up Bulls is a tangible punishment of its own, with a hard-to-play Temple team on Friday and, if that is solved, Michigan on Sunday.

In short, the Gaels got the best setup, which is just given that it is better than Gonzaga by deed and better than Cal by performance. Kansas is no bargain, and is capable of making any team look profoundly bad, but the Moraganoids have no complaint. If they never play Cal, well, some things are just not meant to be.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.