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The trip to the World Series has been a difficult one. Three players transferred after the bad news in the fall, but the core of the team stayed together for one last run behind a strong pitching staff led by Erik Johnson, Justin Jones and Kyle Porter.

While preparing for the season, the Bears also had to prepare for their futures. Assistant coach Dan Hubbs asked every player with eligibility remaining for a list of three schools they’d like to transfer to in case the reinstatement bid failed and called the coaches at those schools on the players’ behalf.

“If you can imagine running your program, saving your program and dismantling your program all at the same time, it’s all day, every day,” Esquer said. “There’s not one piece of that that doesn’t stop. It was difficult, but my assistant coaches played a big role in doing all those things at once.”

The Bears started the season off well, using the anger over their slated elimination to fuel a 19-7 start. Then came the good news in April that the program had been saved, but Cal stumbled down the stretch, going 12-13 the rest of the regular season before getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Bears lost the first game of their regional to Baylor before following it up with victories over Alcorn State and No. 8 seed Rice to set up a rematch with Baylor. Cal won the first game 8-0 and then overcame a 7-1 deficit in the finale, scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 9-8 on Devon Rodriguez’s two-run single.

That was followed by the two straight wins last weekend over Dallas Baptist that sent the Bears to Omaha.

“We feel like there’s no obstacle that can get in our way,” outfielder Austin Booker said. “We have the opportunity to beat any team we play against because of the way we battle and the way we keep fighting. No matter the situation we feel like we can go out and win.”


AP freelance writer Michael Wagaman contributed to this report.


Josh Dubow can be reached at