Mustang News Staff Report
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Having won five straight games entering the series against rival UC Santa Barbara, the Cal Poly baseball team was streaking. But in a battle of who’s hotter, the Gauchos validated their top 10 ranking by taking two games out of three this weekend, including Sunday’s 7-3 contest in Santa Barbara.
The Mustangs (16-20, 5-4 Big West Conference) dropped to fifth place in the Big West standings with the loss, while UC Santa Barbara (28-9, 6-3), ranked Nos. 9-11 in the major NCAA Division I polls this week, moved into a tie for second.
UC Irvine leads the conference with a 10-2 record in Big West games, while Cal State Fullerton and the Gauchos sit at 6-3. With a losing record overall this season, Cal Poly will have to win the conference title to receive the Big West’s automatic bid for postseason play.
On Sunday, the Gauchos broke a 1-1 deadlock with a three-run third inning that Cal Poly could never come back from. Senior pitcher Taylor Chris got the loss for the Mustangs after giving up the winning runs in relief of freshman starter Erich Uelmen, who lasted 1 ⅓ innings. The game marked Uelmen’s first start at the collegiate level.
Cal Poly is now 2-7 with a 6.87 staff ERA in Sunday games this year.
Cal Poly got RBIs from junior second baseman Mark Mathias, sophomore left fielder Kevin Morgan and freshman pinch hitter Josh George. Mathias and junior right fielder John Schuknecht finished with two hits apeice to lead the Mustangs on offense.
UC Santa Barbara first baseman Robby Nesovic, the conference leader with 36 knocked in for the year, torched Cal Poly for four hits and two more RBIs on Sunday. Junior lefty Domenic Mazza got the win for the Gauchos on the mound.
Cal Poly had a chance at a series win against one of the nation’s top teams on Friday night but imploded in the late innings. After leading 6-3 entering the frame, Cal Poly surrendered five runs in the eighth inning and eventually lost 8-7. Senior right-handed closer Danny Zandona gave up the runs along with three walks and four hits.
The Mustangs came back on Saturday to edge the Gauchos 4-3 thanks to three-hit days by the top three in the batting order: Mathias, junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen and junior designated hitter Brian Mundell. Freshman southpaw Kyle Smith earned the win after scattering six hits and giving up three runs in 8 ⅓ innings of work.
Cal Poly will travel north to play Santa Clara in a nonconference matchup on Tuesday before welcoming Long Beach State at Baggett Stadium this weekend.
Stephan Teodosescu contributed to this report.