Not much concerns head coach Larry Lee at this point in the season — not even a 9-3 loss in the final game of a three-game set against No. 5 Cal State Fullerton. It could be because Lee and the Mustangs won their biggest series of the year against Cal State Fullerton at home this weekend. And they did so using one simple method.
Cal Poly had two pitchers toss complete games, as the Mustangs took two of three games from the Titans, marking the second series victory over the Cal State Fullerton in close to 38 years.
“We accomplished what we needed to accomplish (in the series),” Lee said. “We put ourselves back in the Big West race and, over the course of two weeks, our RPI has gone from 127 to 61.”
Mason Radeke moved to 6-1 on the year with a 2.42 ERA, after a complete game on Thursday night helped the Mustangs win 7-2. Not to be outdone the next night, Steven Fischback threw a complete game five-hitter for his fourth victory of the year.
However, starting pitching was not quite as solid Saturday, as Chase Johnson was pulled in the fourth inning after giving up three earned runs.
It didn’t matter who was pitching, Cal State Fullerton was still able to put up crooked numbers against the entire Cal Poly pitching staff, scoring three runs in the sixth and two more in the seventh. Most of the power came off the bat of Nick Ramirez, who belted two home runs to deep right center.
But some of the worst news the Mustangs received on Saturday was not from the scoreboard. Injuries to center fielder Bobby Crocker and second baseman Denver Chavez caused Lee to pull them from the game as a preventative measure. Crocker tweaked his right hamstring in the first inning while running the bases and was pulled soon after.
“My hamstring was cramping a bit and, at most, it’s a slight strain,” Crocker said. “I’ll just rehab this week and I should be ready by (next weekend at) Long Beach.”
For Lee, these injuries couldn’t have come at a worse time.
“The thing that’s going to hold us back is the number of injuries we continue to have,” Lee said. “We’ll see the status of Crocker and Chavez as the week progresses.”
Aside from those two, Cal Poly will also have to deal with the loss of Mike Miller, who is out for the foreseeable future with mononucleosis (mono). However, despite the multiple losses, closer Jeff Johnson is expected to be ready next week.
The key to the Mustangs’ recent success has come down to timely hitting, as the entire team has begun to find their groove coming into Big West play. During their seven game winning streak, the Mustangs averaged more than six runs a game, while giving up only two and a half.
“This year is definitely special,” shortstop J.J. Thompson said. “Especially with the hitting and (the pitching staff) doing what they’ve been doing and carrying us for awhile.”
The Mustangs go on the road for the next two weekends, where they will face Long Beach State and UC Irvine. The team is just 3-9 on the road this year, but third baseman Evan Busby said he is hardly concerned.
“At the beginning of the year, we weren’t playing well no matter where we went,” Busby said. “Now, we’ve gotten on our roll, so it won’t matter (where we play).”
The Anteaters are currently tied with the Mustangs for second in the Big West, trailing the Titans by a game. The obvious team goal right now is to win the conference and earn a trip to postseason play, belief being one of their biggest assets.
“(Winning the series) sets us up for later in the year and puts us in a good position to win the Big West,” Busby said. “You have to believe in yourself.”