Cal Poly Baseball kicked off the 2020 season with a 2-1 record in the MLB4 Tournament at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona Feb. 14-16. After winning its first game in a 5-0 shutout over UConn, the Mustangs fell to Michigan by a score of 8-5. Cal Poly capped off the tournament with a 9-8 walk-off victory over the defending national champion Vanderbilt.
Cal Poly opened the round-robin style tournament with a 5-0 win against Connecticut Friday afternoon. The game was Cal Poly’s first-ever meeting with UConn, who was held to just two hits in the shutout.
In his first collegiate start, junior pitcher Taylor Dollard surrendered just two hits and two walks with ten strikeouts through seven innings. Junior pitcher Dylan Villalobos entered the game in the eighth inning to pitch in relief and continued to hold UConn to zero runs. Villalobos pitched two no-hit innings and struck out two batters to secure the save.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 14, 2020
Offensively, the Mustangs registered two extra-base hits with doubles off the bats of junior left fielder Cole Cabrera and freshman third baseman Nick Marinconz. Freshman right fielder Kyle Ashworth recorded two RBIs in his first game as a Mustang while junior first baseman Tate Samuelson and senior center fielder Bradlee Beesley followed with one RBI apiece. Cal Poly’s offensive output combined with three UConn fielding errors as the Mustangs won their season opener for the seventh time in the last nine seasons.
Cal Poly didn’t have the same success on the mound on Saturday against No. 12 Michigan, who was last year’s College World Series runner-up. Despite rallying late in the game to cut its deficit, Cal Poly committed six errors as Michigan secured an 8-5 victory.
In the first inning, junior pitcher Andrew Alverez allowed three runs off a series of Michigan base hits and a Cal Poly fielding error. Alverez responded by striking out seven Michigan batters over the next three and two-thirds innings to hold the Wolverines at a 3-0 lead. Michigan extended its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fifth inning with two walks and one hit off sophomore pitcher Bryan Woo. The Mustangs committed two fielding errors before closing out the inning with two runners left on base.
However, Cal Poly started to cut away at its deficit with a string of hits in the sixth and seventh innings. Beesley and Samuelson drove in RBI singles to cut the Michigan lead to 5-2 before sophomore shortstop Connor Gurnik added a RBI in the seventh to bring the score to 5-3. Wolverines pitcher Ben Dragani escaped the inning with three Mustangs left on base as Beesley lined out to third.
Michigan pulled away in the eighth inning after three walks and two hits extended the Wolverines lead to 8-5. Head coach Larry Lee cycled through four Cal Poly pitchers before the inning came to a close. Junior outfielder Scott Ogrin recorded the Mustangs first home run of the year in the ninth inning, but the effort wasn’t enough as Cal Poly fell 8-5.
Cal Poly rebounded from its loss to Michigan with a 9-8 walk-off victory over reigning NCAA champions Vanderbilt on Sunday afternoon. Cal Poly gave up a 7-2 lead after the sixth inning as the No. 1-ranked Commodores rallied for six runs late in the game. However, a sacrifice fly from Samuelson in the bottom of the ninth drove in junior outfielder Elijah Green for the walk-off victory.
Despite it being his first collegiate start, freshman pitcher Drew Thorpe struck out six batters and allowed just two runs over seven innings.
The Mustangs got on the board first after driving in one run in the second, third, and fourth innings for a 3-0 advantage over Vanderbilt. The defending national champions responded in the top of the sixth inning with two runs through two hits to cut Cal Poly’s lead to 3-2.
However, Cal Poly recorded with three hits and four walks in the bottom of the inning to extend its lead to 7-2. Senior catcher Myles Emmerson drew a walk with the bases loaded to bring in Cal Poly’s last run of the inning before Vanderbilt pitcher Luke Murphy struck out Gurnick to end the rally.
After Thorpe left the mound for freshman pitcher Kyle Scott in the eighth inning, Vanderbilt exploded for five runs through three hits and two Cal Poly fielding errors. The scoring drive was led by a three-run home run from senior Harrison Ray to tie the game at 7-7.
Vanderbilt carried its momentum into the ninth inning with a go-ahead run through a sacrifice fly off Villalobos to take an 8-7 lead. Junior pitcher Darren Nelson was brought in to hold Vanderbilt from furthering its lead. Nelson escaped the inning through a flyout with two runners on base.
Emmerson kicked off the bottom of the ninth inning with a double down the left-field line. Greene followed with a single before a Vanderbilt throwing error allowed Greene to advance to second. Cabrerea hit a high pop-up that was deep enough to allow Emmerson to score, tying the game at 8-8. Marinconz registered a hit that was misfielded by Vanderbilt, which resulted in Marinconz reaching first base safely while advancing Greene to third with only one out.
Samuelson capped off the 9-8 win with a sacrifice fly that allowed Greene to tag up and score the walk-off run against the defending national champions. The win was Cal Poly Baseball’s first over a No.1-ranked program.
What a finish to the #MLB4 tournament! 🔥
After @VandyBoys scored 6 runs across the 8th and 9th innings to take the lead, the @calpolystangs walked it off on this bases-loaded sac fly by Tate Samuelson (@tatesam3) to win, 9-8. pic.twitter.com/rACO835TZT
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 17, 2020
Cal Poly finished the MLB4 Tournament in a first-place tie with Michigan. The Mustangs will return to action for their home opener against Pepperdine Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 6 p.m.