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The Cal Poly baseball team began its Big West Conference title defense last Thursday at Cal State Fullerton.
Despite some early-season woes, the Mustangs came away from their first conference game with a strong 5-0 victory, a performance that exemplified Cal Poly’s potential. The Mustangs followed up with a loss Friday, falling 2-1.
The rubber game Saturday afternoon was a different story.
Cal Poly was unravelled by Cal State Fullerton early. Titans designated hitter David Olmedo-Barrera blasted a grand slam off Mustangs freshman starter Andrew Bernstein in the first inning with no outs. Bernstein was pulled from the game following the home run without recording a single out.
The Titans maintained their offensive dominance, tallying runs in four of the first five innings, including six runs in the fifth to bring the final score to 13-2.
Cal Poly was forced to use seven different pitchers to get through 8 innings of work.
The Mustangs offense was decent, finishing with 11 hits. The lack of run production stemmed from leaving 10 runners on base, a number that would doom any team. Senior left fielder Zack Zehner, junior second baseman Mark Mathias and junior designated hitter Brian Mundell each recorded two hits, with Zehner tallying the Mustangs’ lone RBI.
Despite the big loss, Cal Poly can come away from the conference-opening series with a few positives.
Junior starter Casey Bloomquist and freshman starter Kyle Smith both pitched brilliantly.
Bloomquist shut out the Titans in 7 2/3 innings of work Thursday in arguably his best start of the year. He is now 3-2 with a 2.56 ERA. Smith pitched 8 innings Friday, striking out seven. He matched the Titans starter for most of the game. Smith is 2-5 despite a solid 3.76 ERA.
On the offensive side, Mundell, Mathias and junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen have been strong.
Mundell leads Cal Poly with a .371 batting average. He has also belted four home runs and 16 RBIs, trailing only Zehner, who has five homers and 26 RBIs. Van Gansen and Mathias have been the contact hitters the Mustangs need at the top of the lineup, batting .357 and .311, respectively.
Cal Poly (10-18, 1-2 Big West Conference) will return home for the second game in a nonconference home-and-away series Tuesday against Pepperdine, the side that knocked the Mustangs out of the NCAA Regionals a year ago, and beat Cal Poly again last week.
They will follow that up with a three-game conference series against Hawaii (12-19, 3-3) at Baggett Stadium.
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. for Tuesday’s matchup against Pepperdine, and for Friday’s game against Hawaii.