California Golden Bears
Overall Rank: #27
Conference Rank: #6 PAC-12
The California Golden Bears will enter the 2012 season with high expectations, coming off their best season since 1980 when they finished third at the College World Series. A program that was on the verge of being cancelled for budgetary reasons, Cal finished fifth at the 2011 CWS, their first trip back since 1992, when they placed seventh. The Bears won the Houston Regional and a Super Regional series at home against Dallas Baptist to reach the series. Head Coach David Esquer, who was named 2011 National Coach of the Year by three different organizations, begins his 13th season at the helm of Cal. Seven players from last year’s team were drafted and six earned All-Conference honors. Coach Esquer returns 24 athletes with Golden Bear experience, six position players who started 50 games or more and three solid pitchers for 2012. In April it was announced that the Cal Baseball program would not be cancelled.
2011: 38-23, 13-13
2011 Postseason: NCAA (CWS Finished top 6. Eliminated by two losses to Virginia)
Coach: David Esquer, 13th Season
The 2011 PAC-10 Player of the Year, Tony Renda, returns after leading Cal and being top 10 in the conference in five offensive categories. The junior second baseman played in all of the Bears 61 games, hit .332, tallied 88 hits, knocked in 44 runs and stole nine bases. All-Conference picks Chadd Krist and Vince Bruno also return, providing leadership and stability. Krist, a catcher who was drafted by MLB in 2011 but chose to come back for his senior season, hit .297, recorded 70 hits, 27 doubles with 43 RBI last spring. Bruno (OF) hit .299 and had 49 hits in just 47 games. Junior Infielder Mitch Delfino hit .260, belted four home runs and drove in 21.
A trio of talented and experienced pitchers returns for Coach Esquer. Senior Matt Flemer didn’t sign after being drafted in June 2011 and will be back. An All-Conference right hander, he appeared 30 times in 2011 posting a 1.73 ERA. Southpaw Justin Jones was a big part of last year’s starting rotation winning nine times. The junior All-Conference pick worked 119 innings, struck out 80 with a 2.93 ERA. Kyle Porter earned Freshman All-American honors in 2011. The right hander was 6-0, striking out 57 in 57 innings. Porter’s ERA was 1.89. Robb Woodcock will join the staff in 2012. The 2011 ESPN RISE Cal-Hi Sports Player of the Year for small schools went to Marin Catholic High School where the left-handed ace went 12-0, posting a 0.60 ERA, and striking out 110 in 81.1 innings. In his senior season, Woodcock pitched back-to-back no-hitters and threw 21 consecutive innings without allowing a hit.
Who to Watch:
Cal’s nine new additions to the team include a heralded group of eight freshmen. The group includes Brenden Farney, Michael Jordan and Chris Paul. Farney was drafted out of high school and put up impressive numbers as a senior at Vacaville High School. He batted .487, slugged .859 and had a .543 on-base percentage. Jordan is a right-hander from Murrieta Valley High School and, as a senior, he fanned 55 in 55 innings. The Orange Coast League MVP, Paul hit .495, drove in 49, with an .851 slugging percentage and .562 on base percentage as a senior at Laguna Beach High.
Cal and Coach Esquer go into battle in 2012 well equipped to make another deep run into the post season. With a group of strong, experienced pitchers and the addition of Woodcock to the pen, Esquer should have the arms he needs to compete in June. A talented offense comes back to provide run support. Renda, Krist and Devon delivered over 120 RBI between them and when Bunting gets more opportunity this year, his production is sure to increase. Along with the touted freshmen, Cal has a solid chance to be competitive in the inaugural PAC-12 season and is positioned to make another trip to the NCAA Tournament
Projected Postseason: NCAA
At Bats: Tony Renda, IF, 265
Hits: Tony Renda, IF, 88
Home Runs: Chad Bunting, OF/C, 7
RBIs: Tony Renda, IF, 44
Runs: Tony Renda, IF, 38
Stolen Bases: Tony Renda, IF, 9
Wins: Justin Jones, P, 9
Innings Pitched: Justin Jones, P, 119.2
Strikeouts: Justin Jones, P, 81
Saves: Matt Flemer, P, 6
Madness 2012 MLB Draft Rankings:
#89 Tony Renda
#101 Justin Jones