Entering this season, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee stressed an importance on pitching.
“Eighty percent of baseball is pitching. Good pitching hides any weaknesses you have,” he said.
In the Mustangs’ season-opening series against USC, Cal Poly pitched a total of 205 pitches en route to its fourth straight season opening 9-4 loss, Friday night in Baggett stadium.
“Eight walks — it can’t happen,” Lee said. “It was not a good night for our pitching staff.”
The Mustangs sent four pitchers to the mound against the Trojans. The group allowed a total of five runs along with four unearned off a pair of dropped fly balls. Starting pitcher Matt Leonard, who went 5-3 with a 7.68 ERA last year, saw his pitch count tip over 100 in the fifth inning and threw 37 pitches in the first.
But it was relief pitching that killed Cal Poly as it held the lead and the momentum until the sixth innining when lefty Frankie Reed came into a bases-loaded situation in a 4-4 tie. After two innings, Reed gave up three runs on two hits. It was his first outing since 2007.
“There were a few close calls that we would have liked to go our way, but unfortunately they didn’t,” catcher Ross Brayton said.
Errors crippled the Mustangs.
In the third inning, outfielder Bobby Crocker misplayed a high fly ball in right field that turned what should have been the second out of the inning into a runner in scoring position. Designated hitter Matthew Foat knocked in the run in the ensuing Trojan at-bat.
USC infielder Matt Hart connected on deep fly ball to center in the seventh inning. As center fielder Adam Melker backpedaled to the warning track, the fly ball bounced off his glove and allowed two runs to score.
“Well I mean you just go one game at a time and learn from your mistakes,” Lee said.
The Mustangs posted a three-run first inning. Brayton hit a two-RBI double to shallow left field with the bases juiced. The next batter, designated hitter DJ Gentile, grounded out to first but scored Matt Jensen in the process.
The Mustangs would add another run in the fourth inning. Senior Luke Yoder connected on a long line-drive to the outfield wall and legged out a stand-up triple and an RBI.
Cal Poly didn’t cross home plate for the rest of the game.
“We had seven unanswered runs on out part,” Yoder said. “We did really well in the first couple of innings … but we couldn’t put together anything after that.”
Yoder finished the game with two hits off five at bats to pair with an RBI. Brayton also notched two hits off five at bats with two RBI.
“I felt good,” Brayton said. “It was kind of nice to get out their to play an actual team and get back in the swing of things.”
Starting pitcher Andrew Triggs climbed his way into the Trojan’s starting rotation in 2010 after taking a two year hiatus from the game due to Tommy John’s surgery. He was an Pac-10 honorable mention honoree last season with a 5-3 record and a 3.96 ERA.
He pitched 117 pitches against Cal Poly, allowed four earned runs and earned the win.
Cal Poly opened last season with a three-game series against nationally-ranked Rice. After losing the first, the Mustangs took two of three. This season it was USC, a team projected to finish eighth in the Pac-10.
“It is just one game of 56,” Brayton said. “We have a long season ahead of us and we just have to take it one game at a time.”