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Previewing the College World Series: California Golden Bears

This is the first look of the eight teams in the College World Series.

It's amazing how six months can change a program. Just before the 2011 season began, Cal announced they would be cutting five sports for budgetary reasons. Baseball was among them. Since then, Cal (37-21) has put together a season they will never forget in what could fittingly be their last season. For the first time since 1992, the Golden Bears are back in the College World Series.

Cal got to the CWS by winning the Houston Regional, defeating Alcorn State, Baylor twice (they lost the first game against them), and No. 8 national seed Rice. The Bears also swept the upstart Dallas Baptist Patriots to win the Santa Clara Super Regional. 

Erik Johnson (6-4, 2.91 ERA) leads a pitching staff with a team ERA of 2.90. Johnson is a First Team All-Pac 10 pick and a second round pick by the Chicago White Sox. Justin Jones (8-6, 3.09 ERA) and Dixon Anderson (4-3, 3.90 ERA) also provide some pitching punch for the Golden Bears. Jones, a freshman All-American last season, will get the start Friday against the winner of the Virginia-UC Irvine game this afternoon.

On offense, Cal is led by Pac-10 Player of the Year Tony Renda. Renda is hitting .335 with three home runs and 42 RBI. Pac-10 first teamer Chadd Krist also leads the Bears offense with a .304 average, two home runs and 43 RBI. Krist had a key two-run home run that pushed the Golden Bears past the Patriots Sunday and into the CWS.

After many thought this season would be the last for the Cal Bears baseball program, they certainly saved their best for last. But thanks to a fundraising effort, Cal baseball is here to stay. For a program in limbo, the Cal Golden Bears had a chip on their shoulder to at least go out with a bang. They've certainly exceeded expectations for the season and will be the CWS Cinderella story, going to Omaha for the first time since 1992, and trying to add a third baseball national championship and first since 1957.