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The winning formula is seemingly simple for the Cal Poly baseball team when it plays Hawaii: Get down early, then come roaring back with multirun innings to put the game out of reach.
The Mustangs followed that blueprint to a T against the visiting Rainbow Warriors on Sunday afternoon.
Cal Poly scored four runs in the third and fourth innings and tacked on runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to give the Mustangs a 12-5 win and series sweep at Baggett Stadium.
“We did what we had to do,” head coach Larry Lee said following the game. “It just keeps us relevant for the next conference series … For us, everything is about conference. The only possibility of postseason competition is to win our conference.”
Cal Poly (14-18, 4-2 Big West) came back from five runs down on Friday night and two runs down in Saturday’s game before overcoming another 2-0 deficit on Sunday.
To earn their second straight postseason appearance in as many years, the Mustangs will need to collect the Big West’s automatic qualifier spot by winning the conference regular season title. This weekend’s sweep was a step in the right direction.
“I think this is really good momentum going into next week and the rest of our season because we have a couple tough series coming up,” sophomore catcher Brett Barbier said.
Barbier got the rally started in the third inning by smoking a bases-clearing two-run triple to the gap in left center. Junior first baseman John Schuknecht followed with an RBI single to make it 4-2.
Barbier then launched a three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the fourth inning to extend Cal Poly’s lead to 8-2. That proved to be all the run support Cal Poly would need.
“I was just trying to work pitch by pitch like Coach Lee always said,” Barbier said. “That was my mentality the entire game, to just do my part as the next guy up in the lineup.”
Cal Poly needed the bats to show up, as the Sunday pitching spot proved to be an issue once again. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Justin Calomeni lasted just one inning before Lee pulled him in favor of freshman reliever Michael Gomez. Entering the game, Calomeni sported an 8.64 ERA when starting. He allowed two runs on two hits in an inning of work.
Calomeni allowed a leadoff walk that came around to score in the first inning and a leadoff double in the second. He was on a short leash. As Gomez said, he started warming up in the bullpen after the first batter of the game.
“I knew if Calomeni got in trouble, I’d be going,” Gomez said of the longest outing of his career. “I didn’t know how long I was going to go, I just tried to focus on the next pitch.”
Gomez (1-2) picked up the slack and earned the victory after tossing 4 2/3 innings. He allowed 10 hits and three runs, as fellow first-year freshman pitcher Eric Uelmen managed the save after throwing 3 1/3 innings of no-run ball.
“(The bullpen) is the future,” Lee said. “Gomez and Uelmen are the future of our program, and they really stepped it up.”
After scoring in only three different innings the previous two games combined, Cal Poly scored in five straight frames on Sunday.
On Friday, the Mustangs scored three times in the fifth inning and four times in the sixth inning en route to a 7-5 win. Junior designated hitter Brian Mundell launched a three-run home run to help ignite the rally in the series opener. Saturday, junior second baseman Mark Mathias tripled to cap a three-run seventh inning to help Cal Poly win 3-2.
Paced by Barbier’s 3-for-4, six-RBI day, all of Cal Poly’s starters managed at least a hit on Sunday.
“Brett’s a tough kid,” Lee said of Barbier. “He works extremely hard and it’s good to see him be rewarded for how much he puts into the game. Everybody that we can have contribute just gives us a better chance of coming out on a positive note.”
The Mustangs have now won four straight games, their longest win streak of the season.
Jarrett Arakawa (2-1) got the loss for Hawaii (12-23, 3-6), while designated hitter Alex Saweleson’s three-hit day led the Rainbow Warriors on offense.
Cal Poly will welcome Fresno State for a midweek nonconference matchup on Tuesday before traveling to UC Santa Barbara next weekend. The Gauchos (26-8, 4-2) are ranked in the top 25 in every major poll.