The Cal baseball team spent much of the season battling to avoid seeing its program eliminated. Now the Golden Bears are one win away from the College World Series.
Justin Jones was masterful for six innings and Chad Bunting delivered the only offense Cal needed to earn a 7-0 victory in the opener of their NCAA Super Regional against Dallas Baptist at Santa Clara's Stephen Schott Stadium on Saturday.
The best-of-three series resumes Sunday at 7 p.m., and a victory would send the Bears to Omaha, Neb., for their first trip to the CWS since 1992.
"We're not going to spend a whole lot of time thinking about that," Cal coach David Esquer said. "We feel pretty good about where we're at, but we've got a lot of work to do. We've got a tough opponent that's going to play for their lives, and we know what that's like. We respect them, and we respect the game enough to come out ready to play tomorrow."
The Bears faced extinction earlier this year because of university budget cuts before being cleared for reinstatement April 8 after gathering approximately $9 million in donations.
They were greeted warmly by a sellout crowd of 1,431 on Saturday.
"We couldn't ask for more from the home crowd," Esquer said. "They came out and supported us, and I thought that was a big lift."
Bunting delivered early offense for Cal by drilling a three-run home run in the top of the second inning off Patriots starter Brandon Williamson (10-4). Devon Rodriguez and Mitch Delfino singled ahead of Bunting, who deposited an 0-1 pitch over the left-field fence for his team-leading seventh homer of the season.
"He left a changeup (over the) middle part of the plate and it was up a little bit," Bunting said. "I was able to keep my hands back and put a good swing on it and was able to put it out of the yard."
Jones (9-6), a sophomore left-hander, faced just one batter over the minimum while throwing 75 pitches. He allowed a two-out single in the first to Jason Krizan, then retired the next 15 batters before a two-out walk in the sixth to Tyler Robbins. Cal catcher Chadd Krist then picked off Robbins at first to end the sixth.
"I just went out there and had all my stuff," Jones said. "Once I had everything, I knew they weren't going to hit me. It takes confidence to be out there, and I had tons of it."
Jones' night ended when he felt a twinge in his left biceps on his final warm-up toss of the seventh inning. Logan Scott relieved and pitched three scoreless innings to earn his first save of the season.
The Bears added a run in the sixth when Marcus Semien tripled to right with one out and scored on Rodriguez's sacrifice fly. Semien added the knockout blow in the eighth with a mammoth three-run homer to left to make it 7-0.
Dallas Baptist (43-18) at Cal (36-21), 7 p.m., ESPNU