The road to the postseason just got a lot harder.
The Cal Poly baseball team (21-21, 10-8 Big West) fell to the UC Irvine Anteaters (31-13, 10-5) twice this weekend, turning Cal Poly’s quest to its second regional berth in program history in the wrong direction.
The series got off to a rough start, as Cal Poly’s Friday starter, Mason Radeke, got roughed up for a 6-2 loss. He had been the rock of Cal Poly’s pitching rotation all year. In his 11 starts prior to Friday, Radeke lost just one game.
After two triples and a four-run inning, UC Irvine handed Radeke his second loss of the season.
He started with three scoreless innings against the Anteaters, and then gave up one run in the fourth. In the sixth, Jordan Leyland hit a RBI single to take a 2-1 lead.
In the seventh, everything fell apart.
With two away, UC Irvine’s Brian Hernandez tripled to left center on a 0-1 pitch. Drew Hillman then brought him in with a single to right. Against the next batter, Radeke hit Jordan Fox to put runners at first and second.
Then, Christian Ramirez nailed the second triple of the inning on a 3-2 pitch to right, pushing the advantage to 5-1.
Right fielder Mitch Haniger led off the ninth with a home run to left field to cut the deficit to 6-2, but that was as close as it would get.
Radeke gave up six earned runs off eight hits against UC Irvine. He walked one and struck out three.
Radeke’s counterpart, UC Irvine starter Matt Summers, pitched eight innings to get the win. He gave up one earned run off six hits and struck out 10.
Saturday, the Mustangs rode a five-run, ninth inning rally to their only win of the series.
They came into the top of the ninth inning having scored two runs in the seventh and eighth innings, making it a 3-2 ballgame. The Mustangs got RBI singles from designated hitter DJ Gentile, second baseman Denver Chavez and first baseman Matt Jensen, plus two runs off sacrifice bunts, to upend the Anteaters.
Starter Steven Fischback pitched eight innings. He gave up three earned runs, nine hits and struck out four.
At the plate, the Mustangs had three batters collect multi-hit games. Shortstop Mike Miller went 3 for 5, J.J. Thompson went 2 for 4 and Gentile 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
Sunday, the Mustangs were one run away from extending the game, but lost 3-2.
Haniger hit a home run in the second to left center for the first run of the game, taking a 1-0 lead.
UC Irvine answered in the third inning, with RBI singles from Sean Madigan and a RBI double from Hernandez.
After scoring one more in the fifth, Cal Poly came back in the ninth. With Haniger caught in a run down between first and second base, Thompson scored from third to bring the Mustangs within one.
But Elliot Stewart struck out swinging to end the game.
It will now be a struggle to get to the postseason for the Mustangs as they drop further and further from the top spot in the conference. With the only automatic postseason bid awarded to the conference champion, the Mustangs are falling further and further away from the playoffs.
Cal Poly still has 12 games left, with its next series against UC Davis next weekend in Baggett Stadium.