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For the second game in a row, Cal Poly was outhit by Hawaii yet still managed to rally late in the game to capture the victory and clinch its third series of the year. Freshman southpaw pitcher Kyle Smith, who has now thrown eight or more innings in his last two starts, earned the 3-2 victory on Saturday night at Baggett Stadium.
Pitching without any run support for seven innings, Smith attacked hitters with first-pitch strikes and consistently fought his way out of tough situations.
“I’ve been commanding my pitches better and trusting my stuff, so I can let the defense work behind me,” Smith said.
“Kyle Smith is a great competitor, and he is well beyond his years as a freshman,” head coach Larry Lee said.
The freshman pitcher showed off his competitive nature when he took a hard line drive off of his pitching shoulder, only to shake it off and finish out his eighth and final inning.
Smith gave up eight hits but was only hit particularly hard on the two doubles Hawaii recorded.
“He was phenomenal,” senior center fielder Jordan Ellis said. “As a position player, I’ve got a lot of faith in him just because he throws strikes. When you’re on defense, and your pitcher throws like he did, it makes our job a lot better.”
Ellis went 2-for-4 on the night, with a fourth-inning double down the first-base line. But it was his single in the bottom of the seventh that began Cal Poly’s late-game turnaround.
Ellis scored his team’s first run in the seventh on a sprint home from third base after a ground ball was fielded by the pitcher and sent to first. Junior first baseman Ryan Drobny then scored with two outs to knot the score at two before junior second baseman Mark Mathias ripped a triple down the line to help score the Mustangs’ deciding run later in the inning.
The late-game revivals seem to be a recent pattern of success for the Mustangs.
“I mean, if it’s working, then it’s working,” Smith said. “I do what I can to put my team in a position to win, and if it just so happens to come late in the game, that’s fine.”
“We’ve needed more offensive production lately, and it has put a lot of weight on our top three hitters,” Lee said. “But Drobny has had a couple good games in a row; Ellis has helped, too.”
After this series-clinching victory, Cal Poly shifts its focus onto collecting more overall series wins as it makes its way through Big West play.
“We need to keep winning ball games and taking more series in order for the ones that follow to be relevant. We need to stay relevant,” Lee said.
The Mustangs will continue their pursuit of conference relevance tomorrow when they take on Hawaii for the final game of the three-game homestand at Baggett Stadium. First pitch is at 1 p.m.