SANTA CLARA (CBS / AP) — Their first step to Omaha followed a staggering blow. The September day California’s baseball team learned the program was being cut, the Bears decided to practice anyway.
“After getting dropped and everything, going out for that practice was a team decision,” California infielder Tony Renda said. “We loved to play baseball and we love to be around each other.”
They get to play a few more games.
Chadd Krist homered and drove in three runs and the Bears beat Dallas Baptist 6-2 on Sunday night to earn their first College World Series berth in 19 years.
Derek Campbell and Renda each had three hits and drove in a run for the Bears, who faced an uncertain future at the beginning of the season. They learned the program, since reinstated, would be among those cut because of budget restrictions.
California coach David Esquer, Stanford’s starting shortstop when the Cardinal won the 1987 College World Series, had canceled practice when the team learned of its cut.
“To a man they they said we’re practicing,” Esquer said. “It hit me over the head. Here they are getting difficult news and they came out for each other.”
Erik Johnson pitched six solid innings to help the Bears (37-21) sweep the Super Regional series after winning the opener 7-0 on Saturday.
Johnson (7-4) allowed two runs on three hits. He walked four and struck out four.
“Getting the program cut made us stronger,” Johnson said. “We played for each other. and set everything else aside.”
Kenny Hatcher and Joel Hutter each doubled home a run for the Patriots (42-20). Jared Stafford (8-5) lasted 3 2-3 innings, giving up five runs on six hits.
“It’s tough to watch somebody else dog-pile at the end of the game,” Patriots coach Dan Heefner said. “But it also means they did something special to get here. This took us to a whole new level.”
Both teams surpassed expectations. California was seeded third in the Houston Regional and won four straight after dropping its opener, overcoming a three-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth of the championship game to advance.
Dallas Baptist, seeded third in the Fort Worth Regional, upset the top two seeds to advance.
“We had a lot of special wins to get here,” Patriots closer Chris Haney said. “I’m a senior and I’m through with Dallas Baptist. I’m thankful we had another week to play together.”
Krist gave the Bears a 2-0 lead in the first inning, slamming a two-run shot into the dirt parking lot beyond the left field fence.
Hatcher’s one-out double in the second followed a walk to Ryan Behmanesh and closed the gap to 2-1.
After Cal scored an unearned run in the second, the Patriots came back with a run in the third on Hutter’s double.
Johnson and three relievers, Kevin Miller, Kyle Porter and Matt Flemer, combined on a four-hitter.
Tuesday some of the players were at their final practice on the UC Berkeley Campus before heading off to play for the title.
At a sunny and warm Evans Diamond, an Omaha pop station was broadcast over the loudspeakers during the practice.
Left fielder and lead-off hitter Austin Booker said the tremendous ups and downs of the year have gave the team a renewed focus.
KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:
“We feel that there’s no obstacle that can get in our way,” he said. “We think we have the possibility to beat any team we play against.”
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