The Cal Poly baseball team looked to jump above the .500 mark for the first time all season and win for the third game in-a-row at Baggett Stadium. However, the Mustangs committed four errors on the night which led to five unearned runs for the visiting Houston Cougars. Houston went on to defeat Cal Poly 13-8 in the first of a three game weekend series.
The Cougars (6-5) pounded out 16 hits while the Mustangs (6-7) accumulated 11 on the night. Houston was led by freshman designated hitter M.P. Cokinos who had three hits and four RBIs on the night. Right fielder Codey Morehouse, who did not have a hit on the season, added four singles for the Cougars and center fielder Joel Ansley contributed three hits to raise his team leading batting average to .436 on the season.
Sophomore second basemen Matt Jensen led the Mustangs with three hits including a double and solo home run. Bobby Crocker, David Van Ostrand and Luke Yoder all added two hits for the game. Senior Adam Melker extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the bottom of the seventh.
Head coach Larry Lee said his team made too many mistakes throughout the game and did not perform well from a pitching and defensive standpoint.
“It was just sloppy on our part,” Lee said. “We didn’t play anywhere close to well enough to win against a quality opponent tonight.”
The Mustangs started the game strongly for the third game in a row by getting on the board first.
Freshman Mitch Haniger singled to center with the bases loaded to give the Mustangs the early lead at 2-0 after the first inning. However, Houston countered with single runs in the second and third innings to even the score at two.
The Cougars blew the game wide open with seven runs in the top of the fourth inning. The big blow of the inning came off the bat of Cokinos. His three-run home run off the top of the wall in left center gave the Cougars an 8-2 lead. His blast came after a routine groundball went through the legs of shortstop J.J. Thompson that would have ended the inning. On the next pitch from Cal Poly starter Matt Leonard, catcher Chris Wallace homered down the right field line for a 9-2 lead after 3 1/2 innings.
Yoder said the seven run inning put the Mustangs in tough hole and took the wind out of their sails.
“After that seven run inning, I think a lot of us kind of got down and just threw in the towel a little early,” Yoder said. “It’s really important to stay focused for the entire game because it’s nine innings of baseball and anything can happen.”
Leonard’s night came to an end after the fourth. He allowed nine runs on 10 hits, but only four of the runs were earned. He struck out four and dropped to 0-3 on the season with the loss.
Cal Poly scored a single run in the bottom half of the fourth on a double to right center by left fielder Bobby Crocker, but Evan Busby was thrown out at home after a base running error in which Crocker and Busby were both converging at third base as the throw came back into the infield.
Cal Poly and Houston traded single runs in the fifth to make the score 10-4. Jensen led off the fifth inning for the Mustangs with his first home run of the season to left center. His blast ended the night for Houston starter William Kankel. He pitched four plus innings allowing five hits and four earned runs while striking out five batters.
Houston tallied three more times in the seventh inning off of relievers Eugene Wright and Andrew Bruder to extend their lead to 13-4.
The Mustangs rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to pull to within five runs, but could never inch any closer to the Cougars. Yoder hit a towering three-run shot over the left field wall for the final runs of the game. It was Yoder’s fourth home run on the season which leads the Mustangs.
Yoder said the team needs to pick each other up throughout the game and control what they can control.
“We just really need to focus on keeping the energy up in the dugout because if your team is not behind you at all its really hard to stay focused and come back,” Yoder said.
Sophomore Mo Wiley came on in relief of Kankel to pick up his first win of the season for the Cougars. He pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed six hits and four earned runs while striking out 10 batters. On the night, Houston pitchers struck out 15 Cal Poly hitters.
Despite the tough loss, Jensen said the game represents only one in a long season and the Mustangs are fine mentally.
“It’s a game of failure and it’s about our mental toughness and overcoming the obstacles in the game,” Jensen said. “We’ll come back out tomorrow with a clean slate and come out firing.”
The Mustangs look to even up the series against the Cougars tomorrow night at six. The projected starters for the matchup are left-hander Kyle Anderson going for Cal Poly against right-hander Michael Goodnight for Houston.