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Mustang News Staff Report

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For the second straight Sunday, the Cal Poly baseball team made things interesting in the late innings but left the bases loaded in the ninth as the Mustangs lost 6-5 in the series finale at UC Irvine.

Cal Poly scored two runs in the top of the eighth inning to bring it within one, but junior first baseman Ryan Drobny, who had not been retired on the day, grounded out to end the game with the tying run 90 feet away. The Mustangs (23-25, 10-8 Big West) dropped a pivotal series to the conference’s top team and likely lost a chance to secure their second straight Big West title.

With an RPI of 120, the Mustangs won’t receive an at-large regionals berth, meaning Cal Poly needs to clinch the outright regular season title to earn the conference’s automatic postseason bid. But the Mustangs’ series loss to UC Irvine (31-17, 13-5), as well as losses to the other teams ahead of them in the Big West standings (Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara) earlier in the season, now makes a league championship improbable.

UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton lead the Big West with a 13-5 conference record. The Gauchos are 12-6, while Cal Poly sits in fourth with its 10-8 mark.

Senior left fielder Zack Zehner and junior right fielder John Schuknecht hit home runs on Sunday afternoon as four different players collected two RBI in the game. The Mustangs outhit the Anteaters 12-9 but left 12 runners on base, including three in that final inning.

Senior left-hander Taylor Chris earned the loss for the Mustangs in his first career start. Chris, a staple out of the bullpen with 77 career relief appearances, gave up six runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Cal Poly earned a series-opening victory with a 9-6 win against UC Irvine on Friday night before losing the next two games. Junior right-hander Casey Bloomquist improved to 6-2 with his sixth straight victory on the mound, as he allowed two earned runs in 8 1/3 innings in the Friday opener.

Junior designated hitter Brian Mundell and sophomore catcher Brett Barbier each collected three RBI en route to the win in that game.

On Saturday, the Mustangs exploded for five runs in the top of the third inning but then surrendered seven runs in the bottom half of the frame. They would never recover and eventually lost 9-6. True freshman pitcher Kyle Smith earned the loss, as he was tagged for eight runs in 2 1/3 innings on the mound.

Cal Poly will welcome UC Riverside to Baggett Stadium for the final home series of the year next weekend. The Mustangs will finish the season with a three-game set at UC Davis the following weekend.

Stephan Teodosescu contributed to this report.

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