OMAHA, Neb. (CBS / AP) — In a season full of adversity, California will face some more at the College World Series after a 4-1 loss to Virginia on Sunday.
The Golden Bears will go into Tuesday’s game against Texas A&M needing to win to keep their dream season going.
“We got ‘em right where we want ‘em,” Cal coach David Esquer joked.
The Bears already have stared down the prospect of having its program cut next year for budgetary reasons. A $9 million fundraising effort saved the program.
Cal made it into the NCAA tournament after a sixth-place finish in the Pac-10, and it rebounded from a first-round regional loss to reach Omaha for the first time since 1992.
“We’re kind of used to having our backs against the wall, so we’ll see,” Esquer said.
Cal (37-22) battled Danny Hultzen and the No. 1 seeded Cavaliers evenly through six innings. John Hicks’ single in the Virginia seventh broke a scoreless tie in what until then had been the longest 0-0 game at the CWS since 1987.
“It was tough, because you want to put some runs up,” Cal’s Austin Booker said. “But the pitchers were doing well limiting us to a few runners and making the pitches to get us out. Just keeping the game close is what we’re trying to do.”
Steve Proscia followed Hicks’ hit with a sacrifice fly, and the Cavaliers added two more runs in the eighth.
The Cavaliers (55-10) move to a Bracket 2 winners’ game against South Carolina on Tuesday night.
Before Hicks’ run-scoring single, the Cavaliers had gone 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.
“We started to wonder there,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “We had a lot of missed opportunities we didn’t capitalize on. That speaks to the quality of the arms California has, the ability to pitch out of jams. I knew if we hung in there and continued to battle, and our pitching held us in there, we’d have a chance to win it late.”
Hultzen and Tyler Wilson were within an out of combining for the first CWS shutout in five years before Chad Bunting dropped a run-scoring single over shortstop with two outs in the ninth.
Hultzen, the No. 2 overall draft pick by the Seattle Mariners, allowed three hits over 6 1-3 innings. He walked three and struck out six. He effectively mixed his 94-mph fastball with his slider and changeup.
“Danny Hultzen, as advertised, the second pick of the draft. He’s tough. A little bend but no break, and I have to give him a lot of credit for making the big out when he had to,” Esquer said.
Wilson (9-0) got the win after working 2 1-3 innings and Branden Kline recorded the last out for his 18th save.
Logan Scott (1-2) took the loss in relief of Erik Johnson, who struggled for a third straight start.
The Bears extended their at-bats against Hultzen, with six of their first 15 batters requiring six or more pitches. Hultzen’s pitch count was deep into the 60s by the third inning, and he was out of the game in the seventh after his 113th pitch.
“They had some competitive hitters up there,” Hultzen said. “They refused to take swings and misses. They did a good job of battling with two strikes. When that happens, you have to let them do that. You can’t try to strike them out because they’re not going to.”
Wilson, used primarily as a starter this season, kept the shutout going until the ninth.
Johnson, tagged for 12 earned runs in 11 1-3 previous innings in the national tournament, struggled with his command. The Chicago White Sox’s second-round pick left after issuing his fourth and fifth walks to start the fourth inning.
“I know you don’t always hit the ground running when you get in the big tournaments and just the tournament atmosphere, and you hope you can stay in the tournament long enough to get comfortable,” Esquer said. “Hopefully we can do that.”
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