Injuries are starting to catch up with the Mustangs.
After Cal Poly took two of three games from Cal State Fullerton last weekend, the Mustangs dropped two of three games to Long Beach State, without shortstop Mike Miller and second baseman Denver Chavez in the lineup.
One of the biggest names, center fielder Bobby Crocker, was used sparingly against the Dirtbags. Crocker is hitting .331 this season and came in to pinch hit on Saturday and Sunday, but didn’t start. Chavez is hitting .291 with nine doubles and two home runs, while Miller is hitting .374, a number that lead the Big West heading into the weekend.
The effects became visible Sunday. The Mustangs left six runners on base and failed to get the clutch hit to bring in tying and go-ahead runs.
With Cal Poly trailing 4-1 in the seventh inning Sunday, center fielder Mitch Haniger flied out to center to strand runners at second and third. In the eighth, D.J. Gentile grounded into a double play that nullified back-to-back singles by shortstop J.J. Thompson and second baseman Matt Jensen.
With the lost opportunities, the Mustangs fell to Long Beach State 5-2 in the series finale.
The Mustangs looked as if they would get off to a great start against the Dirtbags on Friday. Behind Mason Radeke, the Mustangs were able to pull off a 10-0 victory.
Radeke continued his recent hot streak, giving up no earned runs off five hits in seven innings pitched. He has now won all of his starts since his season opening loss to Oklahoma State, and lowered his ERA to 2.19 this season. He also improved to 7-1 on the season.
He got some help from his offense, which scored in bunches, against Long Beach State.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Mustangs got a sacrifice fly from Jensen, Gentile hit a two-RBI double down the left field line and designated hitter Elliot Stewart hit a RBI double to take a 5-0 lead.
They weren’t done. Stewart hit another double, this time for two RBIs, third baseman Evan Busby hit a two-RBI double to left and Haniger hit a sacrifice fly to increase the lead to 10-0.
Saturday was a different story.
With runners at first and second and the Mustangs trailing 4-3 in the ninth, Crocker came in to pinch hit and grounded into a double play to end the game.
Cal Poly starter Steven Fischback went 6 1/3 innings, striking out six, while giving up three earned runs.
Behind Fischback, the Mustangs got off to a fast start. Jensen grounded out to the shortstop in the first to bring home a run and then hit an RBI single in the third to put the Mustangs up 2-0.
Long Beach State came back to tie it at 2-2, but in the seventh, Busby hit a RBI single through the right side to put Cal Poly up 3-2. But, the Mustangs gave up runs in the bottom of the seventh and eighth that put the Mustangs behind for good.
The Mustangs are now 19-19 (9-6 Big West) and struggling to maintain a spot in the top half of the conference. They will have a chance to regain their status as one of the top tier teams in the conference, as they travel to take on second place UC Irvine. But the feat won’t be easy. Cal Poly will square off against a team that boats a 27-12 overall record and has only lost once at home all year, in what may be the biggest series of the season.