OMAHA, Neb. -- Cal is on the brink of elimination once again, this time after losing its College World Series opener 4-1 to Virginia on Sunday.
Next up is a Tuesday game in the losers' bracket, and if any team is prepared for that treacherous road, it's Cal.
"Yeah, you know, we got them right where we want them," coach David Esquer said. "At least that's what I'm trying to convince our guys."
Esquer's program already has rebounded from September's proposed death sentence, as well as a loss to Baylor in the first round of the NCAA regionals. Cal rallied for four wins to advance through that Houston regional, capped by a last-strike rally against Baylor on June 6.
"We don't have any pressure on us," Cal catcher Chadd Krist said. "We've been playing with our backs against the wall all year. Is this anything different? No. We came through the (Houston) regional with our backs against the wall.
"This is good for us. We'll come out focused and ready to go on Tuesday."
The Bears, whose six-game winning streak was snapped, will face Texas A&M at 11 a.m. at TD Ameritrade Park, the new $131 million stadium that replaced historic Rosenblatt Stadium this year.
"I certainly wouldn't count Cal out of this thing," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said. "That program has scratched and clawed and done everything they can possibly do to get here to Omaha. Cal being here is one of the best things that could happen for college
A handful of defensive gems kept Cal in a scoreless game through sixth innings, the first time since 1987 that a CWS game stood 0-0 entering the seventh.
But the bottom of the seventh is when Cinderella-story Cal (37-22) could no longer fend off top-seeded Virginia (55-10). The Cavaliers scored two runs in that inning, then tacked on two more in the eighth before a crowd of 21,275.
Cal managed only six hits in its first College World Series appearance since 1992, when the Bears lost both its games for a quick elimination.
Chad Bunting's two-out single in the ninth scored Marcus Semien for Cal's only run.
"Being able to score a run there, our offense ended on a slightly positive note," Bunting said. "A loss is still sour. We expect to do better, especially with our offense. Our offense was a little droll in the early going."
A driving force behind that was Virginia ace Danny Hultzen, the No. 2 draft pick by the Seattle Mariners two weeks ago. Hultzen allowed no runs and three hits in 61/3 innings.
Cal's only extra-base hit came on Krist's one-out double over third base in the sixth.
"I didn't know what I hit," Krist confessed. "Someone told me what it was, so that's what I'm saying: a slider. I thought it was a change-up."
Virginia's offense stranded at least one runner in scoring position through each of the first five innings.
The Cavaliers finally scored when John Hicks lined reliever Matt Flemer's first pitch into center field to score Keith Werman. Steven Proscia's sacrifice fly made it 2-0.
In the bottom of the eighth, Jared King drilled an RBI triple over Bunting's diving attempt on the warning track in right, and Werman followed with a run-scoring single.
"Hopefully we can stay in the tournament long enough to kind of catch a groove while we're here," Esquer said without divulging who will be his starting pitcher Tuesday.