The Cal baseball team has overcome obstacles all season with a "bring it on" attitude.
The same mindset will be useful Sunday in Omaha, Neb., when the Golden Bears (37-21) face No. 1 overall seed Virginia (54-10) in their first College World Series game in 19 years. First pitch at TD Ameritrade Park is at 11 a.m.
The Cavaliers will start ace left-hander Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 pick in the major league draft by the Seattle Mariners on June 6.
"We faced the No. 1 pick in the draft, and we faced the No. 3 pick in the draft, so we've faced some good pitchers this year," said Cal sophomore Tony Renda, the Pac-10 Player of the Year. "It's just another guy. I'll put our guys up against anybody in the nation, and we're going to have to do that this week."
Cal faced two other high draft picks on back-to-back days in a Pac-10 series against UCLA. The Bears got the best of UCLA's Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates, in a 4-0 victory on May 20. They lost 2-1 when Trevor Bauer, selected third by the Arizona Diamondbacks, pitched a five-hitter.
Cal will start right-hander Erik Johnson, who earned the win in the Super Regional clincher against Dallas Baptist.
The Bears know they will have a tough road in their double-elimination, four-team bracket, which also includes Texas A&M and defending national champion South Carolina.
"You're not going to duck anybody, and I don't think there's a good draw for anyone," Cal coach David Esquer said. "Probably Virginia doesn't want to play us as much as we wouldn't want to play them, if that was ever the case.
"You know you've got to go through good people, and you've got to get some breaks. My experience with the College World Series is if one team was deemed the best team, they're probably not going to win the World Series because that doesn't happen very often."
The Bears have gotten this far with a closeness that is evident by how the players speak about each other. The roster has 16 players who attended local high schools.
Renda and reliever Logan Scott were teammates at Serra High in San Mateo. Shortstop Marcus Semien and closer Matt Flemer played together at St. Mary's in Berkeley. Many others have grown up playing summer ball together.
"When you have a team that grows up with each other, it's stronger," Renda said. "You know what you can say and what gets people on track."
Semien has strong family ties at Cal. His parents attended Cal, and his father, Damien, was a wide receiver for the Bears when Marcus was born.
"It's good to represent Berkeley right," Semien said. "Cal, in general, to be on the national stage this week is a really great feeling."