The path to the brink of elimination was much different for the two teams.
A&M pounced in front of South Carolina with a four-run first inning Sunday night, gave up four runs in the bottom of the inning and lost 5-4 on a walk-off single.
Cal went toe-to-toe with top-seeded Virginia for seven innings before staggering at the end in a 4-1 loss.
No matter how they got to this point, though, it's clear both teams maintain plenty of motivation to stick around in Omaha.
"I know we'll get Cal's best and I can tell you this: Cal's going to get our best," Aggies coach Rob Childress said.
Added Bears coach David Esquer, "I think we're here to prove something. I think our team, in general, isn't here just to participate. … They're here to win ballgames and I think they want to show well and give themselves the best chance to win."
The best chance for Cal to survive will be to follow a similar game plan as it did against Virginia: Pitch well, play solid defense and keep the game close.
Task No. 1 falls on the shoulders of freshman left-hander Kyle Porter, who is 5-0 with a 1.59 ERA. Porter has been solid in the postseason, including logging the first 6.2 innings of an 8-0 triumph over Baylor when he allowed only three hits.
Esquer said using a southpaw also helps combat A&M's base-running prowess – 109 steals in 68 games, led by Krey Bratsen's 31, Andrew Collazo with 18 and Matt Juengel with 15.
The Aggies will hang their hopes on durable sophomore Michael Wacha.
Wacha (9-3, 118 strikeouts, 2.12 ERA) will make his fourth start of the NCAA Tournament, the last two in elimination games. He logged 7.1 effective innings in the Aggies' 11-2 CWS-clinching win against Florida State in the Super Regional Round and also scattered five hits over seven innings to set the stage for A&M's 3-0 win against Arizona in the regional championship game.
Childress called Wacha the "key ingredient" in the Aggies' elimination-game success. But there have been plenty of contributions across the board as A&M has navigated a tricky postseason, including a come-from-behind win against Missouri in the Big 12 Conference Tournament title game.
"I think what we've been through the last month has really helped our team," Childress said. "Helped us grow and helped us get closer together.
"Getting to the if-necessary game in our regional helped us, playing with that kind of pressure. And then again last week on the road in Tallahassee, our guys didn't back down. … Our guys will be ready to play."
- The Aggies are seeking to end a five-game CWS losing streak that dates back to 1993. A&M beat Kansas 5-1 in the opener that season, but lost to LSU (13-8) and Long Beach State (6-2). Then in 1999, the Aggies fell to Florida State (7-3) and Cal State Fullerton (4-2).
- Likewise, Cal is looking to snap a six-game series losing skid that dates to 1980. The Bears last win in Omaha was 4-3 against Miami.
- The Aggies and Bears have played four times and have split 2-2. Two of those games came in a 1992 NCAA Regional at Florida and the teams split there.
- Childress has been at the CWS for seven games and has yet to taste victory. He was a Nebraska assistant under Dave Van Horn when the Cornhuskers went 0-2 in 2001, 2002 and 2005.
- Cal has lost two games in a row 10 times this season but not in the NCAA tournament. A&M has dropped back-to-back outings six times, two of those to fellow CWS team Texas on the final weekend of the regular season.