The Cal Poly baseball team is set to open the conference schedule, and is looking to gain some much-needed wins to pad their NCAA Division I playoff résumé.
After Cal Poly earned an NCAA Regional berth in 2009, a plague of injuries crippled its record and chances of another postseason berth.
The Mustangs will be guided by head coach Larry Lee who led the team to six top-four Big West finishes in eight seasons, posting a 246-203-2 mark during that time.
In 2009, Cal Poly finished third in the Big West, posting a 14-10 conference record and a 37-21 overall record. But in the following season, the team’s nonconference struggles carried throughout the season. Entering the conference schedule 1-11 in their last 12 games, the Mustangs lost their first four conference series, going 3-9 during the stretch.
The Mustangs were able to revive their winning ways at the end of the season, taking three of their last four series versus Big West opponents. But, it wasn’t enough to elevate the Mustangs any higher than sixth place.
Cal Poly, which batted .304 as a team, was successful in putting runners on base. The Mustangs finished No. 3 in the Big West with a .472 slugging percentage and second with 402 runs scored.
The team’s pitching was another story.
Among conference teams, the Mustangs finished eighth with a .317 opponent batting average and last with a 6.75 ERA.
After season ending injuries to two starting pitchers, senior Steven Fischback and junior Mason Radeke, the Mustangs never found rhythm on the mound.
Playing just four games last season, Radeke never made it to the conference schedule. He finished with a 3-1 record and a 2.96 ERA. For Fischback, it was the second season in a row he had to sit on the bench due to labrum surgery. In the 2008 season, he finished with a 5-4 record, striking out 79 batters while posting a 4.55 ERA.
This season, with Fischback and Radeke back in the pitching rotation, Cal Poly is going to look to be a threat both in the batter’s box and on the mound.
The Mustangs were picked to finished fourth in the Big West in a preseason coach’s poll. Cal State Fullerton was picked to finish first with all nine first place votes, followed by UC Riverside and UC Irvine tied for second.
The biggest Best West threat will be, as predicted, Cal State Fullerton, who earned first place in Big West last season with a 21-3 record. Cal State Fullerton made its 32nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the 2010 Super Regionals.
Cal Poly will open the conference schedule with a home series against UC Riverside, which finished No. 4 in the Big West with a 12-12 Big West record.
The last time these two teams faced, the Highlanders opened up the series with a narrow 3-2 win. The Mustangs were able to tie the series with a 5-3 10th inning victory before dropping the third game 5-14. This proved to be Cal Poly’s second largest loss of the season.
The first game of the series is set to begin at Baggett Stadium April 1 at 6 p.m.