The Cal Poly baseball team swept its rivals, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, in a three-game series at home in Baggett Stadium over the weekend.
The Gauchos entered the series favored to win, ranked No. 8 in the nation and at the top of the Big West Conference standings, all while the Mustangs were unranked nationally.
However, the Mustangs battled against the odds to sweep the Gauchos in the three-game series, 7-0, 10-5 and 4-3.
“It’s awesome,” said sophomore pitcher Jarred Zill, who scattered four hits over 6 1/3 innings. “It’s what we expected to do, it’s a good feeling but definitely, it’s an extra special sweep, because it’s Santa Barbara.”
Sunday’s series finale featured intense, close play throughout the game.
The Gauchos started the game with a run in the top of the first inning, leading the game for the first four innings.
The 1,500-person crowd started to think that it would be UCSB’s game, until sophomore center fielder Josh George scored the first run for the Mustangs in the bottom of the fourth inning to tie the game 1-1.
George filled in for freshman center fielder Alex McKenna, who was out for an undisclosed reason for all three games of the series.
“It was exciting to see so many guys step up after some injuries and to have people come in and fill their place,” junior left fielder and team captain Brett Barbier said. “It just showed that we had some depth in our lineup and guys were willing to step up and make the plays.”
The Mustangs seized momentum and took control of the game in the sixth inning, extending their lead to 3-1.
Barbier started the Mustangs’ rally, scoring on an RBI single by junior third baseman Michael Sanderson.
Senior right fielder John Schuknecht extended the lead to 3-1 after scoring on freshman catcher Nick Meyer’s RBI double.
Cal Poly continued to dominate in the bottom of the seventh inning, with junior second baseman Brett Binning scoring on a passed ball.
With the Mustangs leading 4-1, UCSB attempted to come back and cut into the deficit by scoring two runs in the top of the eighth inning.
Cal Poly was not able to muster a single hit or run in the bottom of the eighth inning, making the top of the ninth inning another nail biter, with the Gauchos at bat and the Mustangs hanging on to a one-run lead.
Gauchos’ freshman shortstop Fisher Clay stole third base, putting pressure on the final batter of the ninth inning, but junior pitcher Justin Calomeni struck out Gauchos’ junior third baseman Ryan Clark to clinch the game for a 4-3 Mustang victory.
“This weekend was awesome, it was just a big confidence booster for us,” Schuknecht said. “We should come out and play like this all the time. It was just great for us to perform as a team so well in so many different areas.”
The Mustangs look to continue their momentum when the travel to No. 18 Cal on Tuesday to face the Golden Bears at 5 p.m. The Mustangs faced Cal on April 12 and lost 7-1 after giving up six runs in the fourth inning.
“We have a tough game on Tuesday and Long Beach (State) is going to be another tough series for us, down at Long Beach, because that’s always a tough place for us to play,” Barbier said. “We’ve just need to keep swinging it, keep pitching and just play our game and play against ourselves and I think we’ll be alright.”