Entering the series, Cal Poly baseball head coach Larry Lee said the Mustangs were in a “tailspin,” having lost seven of their last 10 and three of their first four Big West series.
Riding timely hitting by senior shortstop Mike Miller and company, the Mustangs reversed that trend this weekend grinding out a 6-4 win over Pacific on Sunday afternoon earning a series sweep of the last-place Tigers (11-31, 1-11).
The Mustangs (25-17, 9-6) gained a game on all three leading teams ahead of them in the tight Big West Conference standings and is now tied for third with UC Santa Barbara with the win.
The sweep provided the Mustangs with much needed momentum and confidence after a rough previous two weeks, sophomore catcher Chris Hoo said.
“This just gives us a lot of confidence going into Tuesday’s game against Pepperdine,” he said. “That’s pretty much all we need, and we can go from there.”
Sunday’s game proved to be a back-and-forth affair for Cal Poly. Despite winning by two runs, the Mustangs didn’t take control until the bottom of the eighth inning when Hoo scored on a bases-loaded error by Pacific shortstop Josh Smith to add an insurance run.
The biggest momentum shift for the Mustangs came in the bottom of the fifth inning when Miller hit a towering two-run blast to left field to give the Mustangs a 3-2 lead. Redshirt junior Evan Busby reached with a single down the right field line to bring Miller up who squared a 1-0 pitch and sent it into the Baggett Stadium parking lot.
“He’s our catalyst and he’s at the top of our order,” Lee said of Miller’s play. “Usually when he goes, the entire offense goes, and he’s very valuable (in the leadoff spot).”
Miller collected a career-high five hits in Saturday’s ballgame against the Tigers and earned another two on Sunday. He leads the team with a .358 batting average and is second with 28 RBI on the season behind junior Mitch Haniger.
The afternoon contest saw the Tigers get on the board first with an RBI bloop single to left center by Brett Christopher in the third inning.
Haniger responded in the bottom of the third hitting an RBI double that hit the left center field fence on the fly to score Wise.
Pacific answered quickly, as Curtis Gomez launched a solo shot to left center on the first pitch of the fourth inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
Cal Poly’s starting pitcher Kyle Breuggemann was pulled in the top of the fifth in favor of freshman reliever Matt Imhof after allowing two runs on six hits. Cal Poly’s pitching staff allowed Pacific’s leadoff man to reach base in seven of nine innings.
Following Haniger’s two-run home run, Pacific tied the game at three with a Tyger Pederson single down the left field line.
Hoo hit an RBI single just over the shortstop’s head to respond and put the Mustangs back up by one in Cal Poly’s half of the sixth.
On defense, Hoo used his offensive momentum to pick off a runner at first and caught freshman Tyler Sullivan stealing second in the top of the seventh, his 17th baserunner of the year caught stealing.
In the bottom of the seventh, Miller reached first on a bunt hit and Haniger was walked intentionally to load the bases for the Mustangs. Sophomore Jimmy Allen grounded out to second to score Busby from third base and give Cal Poly a 5-3 lead.
The Tigers would battle back in their half of the eighth cutting the deficit to one, but after Hoo scored on Pacific’s bases-loaded error in the eighth inning, redshirt freshman reliever Reed Reilly sat Pacific down 1-2-3 in the ninth. A diving grab by sophomore David Armendariz in left field provided the final out for the Mustangs.
“Good pitching kept us in the ballgame,” Haniger said. “They scored a couple runs early in the game, but if our pitchers keep us around, we got a pretty good lineup and we’ll score some runs late in the game.”
Sophomore reliever Chase Johnson earned the win for the Mustangs.
Cal Poly faces Pepperdine in Baggett Stadium on Tuesday for a non-conference matchup starting at 6 p.m.