Sunday was a pretty good day for Pete Jensen. That morning, his first granddaughter was born. Not long after Parker Jensen was welcomed into the world, two of Jensen's former players—Tony Renda and Logan Scott—made it to the College World Series when California defeated Dallas Baptist, 6-2, to sweep the Super Regional.
The Golden Bears open the College World Series on Sunday when they face the nation's top team, Virginia.
Baseball fans will forgive the longtime Serra High School coach from thinking the former might have been a tad more important than the latter.
Pete Jensen was planning to go to the Super Regional at Santa Clara University, but had to call his former charges last Friday to tell them that he wouldn't make it.
“I told them that my daughter-in-law was in labor,” Jensen said. “I told them hopefully we'll have two special things happening this weekend, and that's what happened. Sunday morning my granddaughter was born and then they made the College World Series.”
The two Golden Bears raise the total of former Serra players to make a College World Series to at least nine. There is, of course, Pete Jensen's son Ty, who made consecutive series with LSU in 2003-04. There's some guy named Barry Bonds who did it back-to-back for Arizona State in 1983-84. There's Matt Toomey, who played on Cal's last CWS team in 1992. Scott Delucchi went to Stanford and was a member of the Cardinal's back-to-back NCAA championship teams in 1987-88.
There's Rob Leary, who played on LSU's first-ever CWS team in 1986. Dustin Delucchi made it with Arizona State in 1998, but came up short in that pinball game of a final, won by USC, 21-14. Billy Peavy made it with USC in 2000-01, hitting a home run against Georgia in the later year.
It's a pretty impressive list, but Pete Jensen refuses to take any credit.
“I'm not sure that it reflects on Serra as it does on the kids’ accomplishments with the schools they've gone to,” said the coach, who retired after winning the Central Coast Section Division I championship in 2009. “We prided ourselves on developing kids to play at the next level. We did everything we could do to carry them on to that point.”
And then, Jensen said, the successes all belong to the athletes. Renda and Scott showed that last weekend. Renda is , hitting .335 on the year. Because of a quad injury, he was the designated hitter instead of second base last weekend. Renda went 3-for-5 in the clincher with an RBI.
Scott came through the night before, entering as a reliever to start the seventh inning when starter Justin Jones suffered an injury warming up. Jones had been dominant to that point, allowing just one hit, and with the Bears holding a 4-0 lead Scott was under a ton of pressure. He promptly finished off the game, allowing just two hits in three innings.
Jensen was more than a little proud of Scott.
“A guy like Logan Scott, who really was not known very much until this year, on Saturday night came into a situation where Justin Jones was hurt and finished the game with three great innings,” he said. “He had a positive career at Serra and it's led to what he's done to this point.”
The Golden Bears story has been widely reported. Last fall, the University announced that the school would drop five sports at the end of the school year. Baseball, which began at Cal in 1892, was one of them. Alumni immediately began working furiously to raise the money to keep the program going. On April 8, smack dab in the middle of the season, it was announced that the program was saved.
“The only reason we're around is because of the people that back us and the people that put their hard-earned money behind us and behind this program,” Renda said of the donors. “I'm forever grateful that they came through for us, came through in the clutch. With them behind us, we're an extremely strong team and if we stay together as a group, we're even stronger.”
Renda had a special moment back at Serra: he hit a home run in Jensen's final game as coach, an eventual 5-4 victory over Archbishop Mitty. It was Jensen's 564th career victory and fourth CCS title in 24 years as the head coach. Prior to that, he was an assistant. Now, Jensen is still teaching two periods of architecture at the school and has found work as a handyman. No, really. And he's getting ready for one more new chapter.
“I'm starting to prepare myself for coaching softball in the future,” he said. As for those 36 years?
“I'm happy to be retired,” Jensen said. “I honestly don't really miss it. Thirty-six years in the game, it got to the point where I wanted to do other things. I'm very happy with where I'm at. I enjoyed every second of it.”