OMAHA, Neb. – A 7-3 loss to California put a quick end to Texas A&M's first College World Series appearance in 12 years.
Aggies coach Rob Childress doesn't expect it to take his program another dozen years to get back to Omaha.
Childress said as much as he gathered with his players after the final out Tuesday.
"I told them, 'Take a look around here. We're expected to be back. I'm sorry that you didn't play better,'" he said.
"We've got a great team. They won everything they could. They won a Big 12 championship, Big 12 tournament, a regional, super regional. We didn't play like we're capable of playing the two games that we were here. It's nobody's fault," he said.
Credit California freshman utilityman Derek Campbell, who drove in two runs out of the No. 9 spot, and closer Matt Flemer, who pitched three scoreless innings in his longest outing of the year.
Their efforts, along with a strong start by freshman left-hander Kyle Porter, allowed the Golden Bears to keep up their improbable postseason run.
The Bears (38-22) won their first CWS game in three appearances since 1980 and will play either Virginia or South Carolina on Thursday in another elimination game.
Michael Wacha, who pitched the first 6 2-3 innings for the Aggies (47-22), said he and his teammates will want to get back to the CWS after getting their first exposure to the new TD Ameritrade Park.
"We're all going to be hungry, I guess, that first day of fall next season," he said. "We'll just be ready and be fighting to be in the same position next year, hopefully with a different outcome."
The Bears led 6-1 after scoring three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth. Campbell, a .255 hitter who came in with five RBIs in 22 games, delivered RBI singles each inning.
Porter (6-0) allowed three runs in six innings. Flemer finished for his sixth save, giving up three singles and striking out five. They combined to stop an A&M club that had recorded 17 comeback victories this season.
Cal coach David Esquer wrote Campbell into the lineup at second base for the fourth straight game so Tony Renda, the Pac-10 player of the year, could rest an injured quadriceps. Renda, who had lobbied Esquer for the start at second, had two hits and drove in a run as the designated hitter.
"Well, sometimes your best moves, you stumble into them," Esquer said. "We were completely comfortable with Derek out at second base, the defense he can play, and he can chip in and help our offense. So we felt like let's go with that lineup and let's make it work."
California would need three more wins to reach the best-of-three championship round next week. Then again, the Bears coaches and players believe anything is possible after the way their season has evolved.
The Cal administration last fall announced plans to cut the program in 2012 for budgetary reasons, but boosters and alumni raised $9 million to save the Bears. The program was reinstated in April as the Bears were on their way to a sixth-place finish in the Pac-10.
After losing in the first round of regionals, they swept through the tournament before losing 4-1 to Virginia in their CWS opener Saturday.
The Aggies led 1-0 in the fourth after Adam Smith homered into the left-field bullpen.
"The left-hander did an amazing job for them," Childress said. "He got them off to a really good start. The guy hadn't had a lot of starts. He matched Michael pitch for pitch. He made one mistake against Adam and wasn't fazed by it."
The Bears responded with six runs the next two innings against Wacha (9-4).
Texas A&M scored twice on three hits and an error in the sixth. Flemer entered the next inning and held off the Aggies the rest of the way. He hasn't given up a run in 8 2-3 innings over his last seven games.
Childress said he's amazed at what Esquer and his club have accomplished after their program was threatened with extinction after this season.
"He definitely deserves coach-of-the-year nomination for being the rock in the storm," Childress said.