Virginia and Cal Meet in Elimination Game
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Virginia and Cal Meet in Elimination Game

OMAHA, Neb. – Virginia wound up facing elimination at the 2011 College World Series because it played an uncharacteristic game against South Carolina.

California stayed alive the same day by playing the brand of baseball that has carried it most of the season.

Which teams show up Thursday when the Cavaliers and Bears tangle for the second time at TD Ameritrade Park will play a big part in which direction both teams head.

Top-seeded Virginia (55-11) and Cal (38-22) collide at 6 p.m.

The Cavs are taking aim at a rematch with reigning champion South Carolina. When the teams squared off Tuesday, the Gamecocks seized on early UVa mistakes to jump in front 3-0 and never let the Cavaliers up for air in the most lopsided game of this year's CWS, a USC 7-1 win.

Virginia managed only five hits and allowed a season-high 13, leaving the Cavaliers frustrated.

"We didn't play the way Virginia has played all year," Cavs coach Brian O'Connor said. "No matter whether it was Cal or whoever, it's about us playing the baseball that has gotten us to this point."

For UVa to be the team that crashes the SEC's Omaha party – South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt are still alive in the semifinal round – the Cavs need a strong pitching performance from senior pitcher Tyler Wilson.

The versatile right-hander logged a victory in a 4-1 triumph against Cal in the first round, coming out of the bullpen for 2.1 innings after the Bears chased starter Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 pick in the recent Major League Baseball Draft.

Wilson (9-0) kept the Bears in check until the ninth inning when a two-out RBI single by Chad Bunting produced their only run.

"He's a quality pitcher, fastball with a good down breaking slider," Cal coach David Esquer said after the first game against the Cavaliers. "Obviously when you go from Danny Hultzen, it's hard to stay at that level. (Wilson) was just a different type of pitcher, gave us a different look, right-hander with a little bit of a down-breaking slider. But I thought he was pretty solid."

Cal's fate is in the hands of junior righty Dixon Anderson (4-3), who makes his first appearance since June 5 when he logged 4.2 innings against Rice in a regional elimination game the Bears won 6-3. Anderson has started 13 games and Cal has won 10, but he has struggled in his last five – allowing 16 runs and 21 hits in 19.1 innings.

To get a second chance at Virginia, Cal put together a strong offensive showing in a 7-3 triumph vs. Texas A&M. The Bears produced back-to-back three-run innings, anchored by a pair of RBI singles from nine-hole hitter Derek Campbell and consecutive run-scoring hits by Mitch Delfino and Bunting.

The win over the Aggies was Cal's fifth straight in an elimination game and another chapter in a season punctuated by survival and getting off the mat.

"We lost our first game, and you've got to come back and win ballgames against very good teams or else you're going home," Bears standout Tony Renda said. "We know the task and what we need to do. We know it's going to be difficult, but we're going to take it day by day and throw the best guys out there and keep turning over the lineup and try to get to the championship series."

First things, first, Cal has to come up with a better offensive performance against the Cavaliers than the first meeting.

In that game, the Bears scratched out only five hits and never got more than one in an inning until the ninth. Hultzen shrugged off a shaky beginning and battled through, although he and Wilson only Cal in order once all day.

The Bears' pitching matched UVa for six innings to send the game to the seventh scoreless. But sparked by a leadoff hit from nine-hole hitter Keith Werman, the Cavaliers manufactured a pair of runs with a walk, a bunt, John Hicks' RBI single and Steven Proscia's sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. Virginia gave Wilson wiggle room with a two-run eighth inning, sparked by Jared King's run-scoring triple and Werman's RBI single.

But Cal's grittiness definitely caught the Cavs' attention.

"They've got good players and obviously they have a lot of pride in their program," O'Connor said.

The winner of Thursday's game moves on to face South Carolina (52-14) at 6 p.m. Friday in the semifinals and needs to beat the Gamecocks twice to earn a spot in the best-of-three national championship series.