HOUSTON (AP) – Devon Rodriguez finished off arguably the biggest comeback of first round of the 2011 NCAA baseball tournament.
Down to his last strike, one that would have ended his team’s season, Rodriguez singled in two runs with two outs to cap a four-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning and give California a 9-8 victory against Baylor at the Houston Regional.
Monday’s walk-off win sends Cal from the Pac-10 to the NCAA super regionals.
After Baylor padded its lead with a run in the top of the ninth, Michael Theofanopoulos drove in a run with a ground out for Cal, and Tony Renda cut it to 8-7 with an RBI single.
After Marcus Semien stuck out, Rodriguez drove a 1-2 pitch to right field, scoring Renda and Austin Booker for the win.
Rodriguez finished 3 for 4 with four RBIs.
“I say I believe it, because I was in the dugout and I saw it with my own eyes,” said Cal head coach David Esquer. “I told the guys that we could do this, but when it actually happened, I don’t know that I actually believed it.”
California advances to face Dallas Baptist in the super regionals. Which team will host is yet to be decided.
“We have done this a couple of other times this year, come back in games we had no business being in,” said Rodriguez. “I had a couple of other chances like this in a couple of other games, but I didn’t come through.
“Going into that at-bat, I told myself that there is no better time to come through.”
Baylor opened up a 7-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, but the Golden Bears cut it to 7-3 with two runs in the sixth, and Rodriguez’s two-run homer made it 7-5 in the eighth.
Matt Flemer (4-2) got the win in relief, and Logan Verrett (7-6) gave up four runs in the ninth to take the loss. Only one of Verrett’s runs was earned.
Baylor second baseman Steve DalPorto made an error with runners on first and second that likely would have been a double play. DalPorto misplayed a grounder by Chad Bunting, and the ball went between his legs and into right field.
“That was a very painful game, a very, very painful loss,” said Baylor head coach Steve Smith. “Obviously, we are going to have some guys that are going to have some sleepless nights. Obviously this is part of college athletics that just cannot be duplicated in the classroom.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)