Cal Poly baseball was swept by rival UC Santa Barbara in the 2022 installation of the Blue-Green Rivalry Series from Friday, Apr. 29 through Sunday, May 1.
With the sweep, the Mustangs (24-19, 11-7 Big West) suffered their first conference series loss to the first-place Gauchos (30-10, 19-2 Big West).
Despite three different game-tying comebacks, the Mustangs dropped the first game of the series 10-7 in extra innings to UCSB on Friday, Apr. 29 inside of a sold-out Baggett Stadium.
It seemed as though Mustang ace Drew Thorpe wouldn’t last long on the mound in Friday’s tilt between the top two teams in the Big West, as he only lasted 1 2/3 innings before giving up three straight runs to the Gauchos, mainly due to Thorpe’s four walks.
The Gauchos’ patience helped them get out to an early lead with a three-run second inning via back-to-back RBI singles from Blake Klassen and Bryce Willits.
Thorpe, who ended up going six innings, took his third no decision of the season. His four walks are the second-highest of the year, and his five strikeouts matched his season-low.
UC Santa Barbara held the 3-0 lead until the Mustang offense suddenly found the spark they were looking for in their frame of the sixth inning.
Following back-to-back walks, crowd favorite and first baseman Joe Yorke reached on an error, scoring the first run in the form of freshman catcher Ryan Stafford.
Junior outfielder Collin Villegas then doubled to knock in the second run—projected No. 1 overall pick shortstop Brooks Lee—and sophomore second baseman Nick Marinconz singled to tie the game at 3-3.
From there, the game, energy of the stadium and excitement throughout both dugouts changed entirely, as the rivalry was fueled.
The Gauchos recaptured the lead in the seventh after a Gianni Bloom homer over the left-field wall, making the score 4-3.
Senior third baseman Tate Samuelson’s comebacker in the eighth inning tied the game again at 4-4. However, UC Santa Barbara’s offense exploded for three runs in the top of the ninth to grab a 7-4 lead with the Mustangs with their backs against the wall in the bottom half.
Down to their final three outs, Cal Poly rallied on sacrifice flies by Lee and Marinconz—followed by a pair of two-out infield errors by the Gauchos—which allowed pinch-runner and redshirt sophomore Jack Painter to score from second base, tying the game at 7-7.
The Gauchos, who had runners at second and third with one out in the 10th before junior reliever Zach Button struck out two to end the threat, broke through again with their third three-run rally of the game in the top of the 11th.
After Klassen broke the tie with a no-doubt home run that silenced the Mustang faithful, Nick Oakley doubled down the right-field line to drive home two insurance runs, making it 10-7 in favor of the visitors.
Three outs later, despite redshirt senior Mark Armstrong reaching second base on a dropped fly ball in the outfield, Matt Ager wrapped up the Gaucho win by striking out three Mustangs in the bottom of the 11th.
The loss was the first time that Cal Poly has fallen to the Gauchos at home in eight years.
After an early lead, the Mustang bats went ice cold as UC Santa Barbara rolled to an 8-3 victory in game two of the series on Saturday.
Saturday’s game witnessed the Mustangs’ quick 3-0 lead answered by the Gauchos with eight straight runs off 13 hits to solidify a commanding lead on top of the Big West Conference.
Left-handed starter Travis Weston went six innings, letting in five runs on nine hits. The first three innings were a clean sheet for Weston, but a two-run fourth and a three-run six were enough to knock the junior out of the game.
Stafford led off the game with a double down the left-field line in the first and, three batters later, a passed ball allowed Stafford to come home and give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead.
Cal Poly tacked on one more run in the second, which started with a lead-off walk by Marinconz. Another passed ball from Bloom, the UCSB catcher, let Marinconz reach scoring position, and graduate right fielder Brett Borgogno drilled a base hit up the middle to score Marinconz.
Lee had a rare hitless performance on Friday, and it seemed as though the slump may continue into the rest of the weekend. However, Lee quieted the grumblings from the crowd by drilling a line-drive homer over the left-field wall to lead off the third inning and give the Mustangs the 3-0 lead and all of the momentum.
The game shifted with two outs in the fourth inning when a pop-up into shallow center field popped out of Marinconz’s glove, allowing UCSB’s Nick Vogt, who tripled earlier in the inning, to score and the batter to advance to second base.
A base hit followed and UCSB cut the lead to 3-2, grabbing the momentum for the first time on the day.
From the fourth inning on, the Mustangs only mustered four hits. The pitching of Gutierrez, Gallegos, Hattenbach and Ager for the Gauchos shut down the Mustang offense, only allowing two baserunners to reach scoring position.
In the top of the sixth, leadoff base hits followed by a bases-clearing double off the bat of UCSB’s shortstop Jordan Sprinkle eliminated the Cal Poly lead. Another RBI base hit later in the inning gave the Gauchos the 5-3 advantage.
Cal Poly’s last threatening push to tie the game came in the eighth when Lee and Yorke tallied back-to-back base hits with only one out. However, the rest of the offense couldn’t capitalize.
UCSB’s Oakley iced the game with a two-run, two-out double in the ninth to push the lead to 8-3, the eventual final score.
Looking to salvage a win in the series finale, Cal Poly was unable to come away with the victory, dropping the Sunday matinee 7-3 to the Gauchos.
After a scoreless first inning from UCSB, a Stafford single and Lee walk put two runners on for Cal Poly in the bottom half. A single from Villegas brought home Stafford to give the Mustangs an early 1-0 lead.
The Gauchos would even the score to 1-1 with a sacrifice fly in the top of the second.
In the bottom of the second, Samuelson singled, Lagattuta singled and Doss reached on an error to load the bases with one out. Stafford then followed with a sacrifice fly to bring home Samuelson, giving Cal Poly the lead back at 2-1.
The two squads remained in a 2-1 stalemate until the seventh inning. Back-to-back triples from the Gauchos tied the game and another sacrifice fly gave UCSB their first lead of the day, 3-2.
In the bottom of the eighth, Yorke launched a leadoff home run to right field to tie the game back up at 3-3 as Baggett erupted in cheers.
UCSB loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. Back-to-back doubles brought home four runs for the Gauchos, silencing the Baggett crowd and solidifying their 7-3 victory.
Senior reliever Jason Franks (3-2) took the loss after four innings of work, giving up five earned runs and striking out just one.
Following the sweep, Cal Poly fell 6 ½ games back of UCSB in the Big West standings, however, the Mustangs are still in sole possession of second place in the conference.
Cal Poly will hit the road for a mid-week game against Fresno State on Tuesday, May 3 at 6 p.m. inside Bob Bennett Stadium. The Mustangs defeated the Bulldogs 8-4 in their last matchup on Feb. 22.