Cal Poly baseball (10-9, 3-0 Big West) completed a series sweep over CSU Northridge (10-9, 0-3 Big West) in the first conference games of the season from Friday, Mar. 18 to Sunday, Mar. 20 inside Baggett Stadium.
When asked what was different between the team this week, junior Collin Villegas said “this weekend all of our pitchers were in the dugout and they have great energy that makes us play better defensively and offensively.”
Cal Poly took down CSUN 6-4 in the series opener thanks to a five-run eighth inning to help the Mustang take a late lead.
Right-handed sophomore Drew Thorpe dominated the first three innings of the game, striking out four batters as he continued his strong start to the season.
In the fourth, the Matadors loaded up the bases on an error, a single and a fielder’s choice where the Mustangs couldn’t get an out. Gabe Gonzalez, CSUN’s designated hitter, then blasted a grand slam off a hanging slider from Thorpe to give the Matadors a 4-0 lead.
After a scoreless fifth and top half of the sixth, Cal Poly opened up their scoring in the bottom of the sixth.
Sophomore shortstop Brooks Lee led off the inning by reaching second thanks to the left fielder losing a pop-up in the lights. After sophomore first baseman Joe Yorke advanced Lee to third, senior third baseman Tate Samuelson hit a sacrifice fly to cut the Matador lead to 4-1.
Both offenses were unable to score in the seventh, and the Mustangs held CSUN scoreless in the top of the eighth
In the bottom half, freshman catcher Ryan Stafford led off with a walk to get the rally started. Lee then singled and the ball got away from the right fielder to send Lee to second and bring Stafford all the way home, making the score 4-2.
After two pitching substitutions from CSUN, redshirt freshman Matthias Haas singled in Lee for his second run scored of the game, inching the Mustangs closer. With senior Matt Lopez at the plate, the CSUN pitcher balked to move both runners in scoring position. Lopez then walked to load the bases.
Following the walk, a sacrifice fly from graduate outfielder John Lagattuta tied the game at 4-4. Villegas, who came in as a pinch hitter, then smacked a two-RBI double off the center-field wall to give Cal Poly a 6-4 advantage.
Senior righthander Jason Franks came in to close the ninth, and he struck out the last two batters to secure the comeback win.
In the second game of the weekend, the Mustangs never trailed in an 8-4 win that clinched a series victory.
Lefty redshirt junior Travis Weston got the start, and he finished with 5.2 innings pitched, six strikeouts, eight hits and four earned runs.
Lee set the tone early, as he followed a lead-off single from Stafford with an RBI triple to right-center to help Cal Poly jump out to a 1-0 lead.
Weston recorded two more strikeouts in the top of the third to keep the Matadors scoreless. In the bottom half, Villegas roped a double into the left-field corner and Lagattuta followed with a two-run homer over the right-field wall to extend the lead to 3-0.
“[Lagattuta] is going to be someone we depend on a lot moving forward,” head coach Larry Lee said.“We need more guys like him.”
In the very next frame, the Matadors tied the game up at 3-3 with a three-run homer.
Cal Poly responded in a big way in the bottom of the third with five runs.
After Brooks Lee and Yorke got on to lead off the inning, Samuelson layed down a sneaky bunt that led to an error from the Matador first baseman that scored Brooks Lee. A pair of walks brought home another run and Lagattuta came up clutch again with an RBI single through the 3-4 hole. To cap off the five-run rally and put Cal Poly up 8-3, sophomore center fielder Reagan Doss hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Villegas.
Sophomore righthander Kyle Scott came in to pitch in the sixth, and he shutout the Matadors in the final 3.1 innings, as he allowed just one hit while striking out six.
CSUN had many opportunities, getting seven runners on base in the last four innings. However, they only scored one more run, and Cal Poly won 8-4.
“We played better in the latter third of the games [this series], when before that was our weakness – the seventh, eighth, ninth inning,” Larry Lee said.
The Mustangs completed the series sweep with a 6-4 win over the Matadors on Sunday, despite being out-hit 14 to six.
Both squads got off to slow starts offensively, with the score remaining 0-0 after three full innings.
Two walks in the bottom of the fourth set up Stafford to get the first runs on the board for either team. A fielding error on the throw to first by CSUN let both runners score and gave Cal Poly the 2-0 lead.
The Matadors answered with one run off of three hits in the fifth, but that’s all they were able to get as the Mustangs kept the lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, a fielder’s choice, a sacrifice fly and an RBI single extended the lead to 5-1 in favor of Cal Poly.
After another scoreless inning from CSUN’s offense, Samuelson walked and scored on an RBI double from Villegas to extend the lead to 6-1 in the bottom of the sixth.
The seventh and eighth innings were quiet offensively, as the game headed into the ninth with the 6-1 score still intact.
Franks came in to close the game yet again and, despite a ninth-inning rally by the Matadors to score two runs, Cal Poly held on for a 6-4 victory and series sweep.
“We need to continue to get better,” Larry Lee said despite the successful weekend. “We have a lot of opportunities for people because there are a lot of glaring weaknesses in the club.”
The Mustangs will take on Cal on Tuesday, Mar. 22 at 3:05 p.m. as they look to continue their winning streak on the road at Evans Diamond.