Thursday was an afternoon of many milestones for Cal Poly Baseball, as the Mustangs defeated UC Santa Barbara 3-0 to start the three-game series that will determine the Big West Conference champion.
Cal Poly’s (27-27, 16-6 Big West) junior righthander Bobby Ay and sophomore righthander Taylor Dollard limited the Gauchos (44-8, 18-4 Big West) offense to just two hits in the first game of the season finale series.
Their combined pitching performances shutout UC Santa Barbara for the first time this season. The Mustangs’ win snapped the Blue-Green Rival’s 13-game winning streak, along with their 19-game home winning streak.
Sophomore first baseman Tate Samuelson opened the scoring in the first inning with a two-run home run to left field for the 2-0 lead. Samuelson leads the Mustangs with five home runs and 39 RBI.
The Mustangs added another insurance run in the fourth inning courtesy of sophomore third baseman Nick DiCarlo. DiCarlo’s bunt squeezed just enough to bring home Samuelson and give DiCarlo a single as well.
Defensively, the Mustangs benefited from sophomore left fielder Cole Cabrera robbing two home runs against the Gauchos.
Cabrera made a leaping catch in the third inning to prevent Gauchos left fielder Tevin Mitchell from rounding the bases to keep Cal Poly’s 2-0 lead.
— Max G. (@MistaMaxG) May 23, 2019
While Cal Poly was held hitless in the final 1 1/3 innings, it was déja vu for Cabrera in the bottom of the ninth. With one out in the inning, Cabrera robbed another home run from the Gauchos — this time from designated hitter Thomas Rowan.
— Max G. (@MistaMaxG) May 24, 2019
The stolen home run was the second out of the inning. Dollard closed out the game when right fielder Armani Smith flew out to center field.
Cal Poly needs to sweep the rest of the series to earn a share of the Big West title and earn a berth to the NCAA tournament. Winning the Big West would give Cal Poly its first tournament appearance since 2014.
Ay pitched the first seven innings, striking out eight Gauchos and walking three batters. Cal Poly’s best starting pitcher only gave up two singles throughout the night, a performance that puts Ay at 9-1 this season. Dollard retired the last six batters and record his fourth save of the season.
Head coach Larry Lee also won his 1,000th game as a head coach in San Luis Obispo, having previously coached Cuesta College from 1987-2002 before joining Cal Poly. Lee’s record of 540-418-2 with the Mustangs, combined with his record of 460-241-3 with the Cougars, gives him a record of 1,000-662-5 in over three decades as a coach.
The series continues Friday, May 24 at 3 p.m. at UC Santa Barbara. Sophomore left-hander Andrew Alvarez will be on the mound for the Mustangs, with a 1-3 record and 5.26 ERA.