Cal Poly baseball traveled to Irvine to take on the UC Irvine Anteaters from Thursday, Apr. 14 through Saturday, Apr. 16 inside Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.
The Mustangs (22-13, 9-3 Big West) dropped game one to the ‘Eaters (21-13, 9-6 Big West) before coming back to win games two and three to take the series. With the series win, Cal Poly remains in second place in the conference, trailing just UC Santa Barbara, while UC Irvine drops to fourth.
In the series opener, the Anteater offense exploded to give sophomore starting pitcher Drew Thorpe (5-1) his first loss of the season, winning 7-1.
After a 1-2-3 first inning from the Cal Poly offense, UC Irvine took advantage with a two-out solo home run to snag a quick 1-0 lead.
The two squads exchanged scoreless innings until graduate outfielder Brett Borgogno got the Mustangs on the board with a solo home run, his third of the season, to tie the game at 1-1.
The Anteaters wasted no time answering the Cal Poly counter. A leadoff walk led to a two-run blast to give UC Irvine a 3-1 lead after the fourth.
Quiet fifth and sixth innings turned the game to the seventh. In the bottom half, five Anteater hits resulted in three runs to extend the UC Irvine lead to 6-1. The Anteaters added another run in the eighth to make it 7-1, closing out any Cal Poly comeback.
Thorpe’s first loss came after six innings of work, allowing three runs on three hits while striking out nine.
Looking to bounce back from the Thursday loss, late-inning heroics from junior outfielder Collin Villegas secured a 4-3 comeback win for Cal Poly to even the series at a game apiece.
Once again, it was UC Irvine breaking the ice on the scoreboard, bringing in two in the bottom of the third to take an early 2-0 lead. The Anteaters added another run in the sixth with a home run, extending their lead to 3-0.
With their backs against the wall, Cal Poly found themselves trailing 3-0 heading to the ninth. Graduate outfielder John Lagattuta led off the inning with a walk. After advancing to second, Lagattuta scored on a single from redshirt freshman designated hitter Mattias Haas, making it 3-1.
Following a strikeout, sophomore shortstop Brooks Lee singled to bring Haas home, giving Cal Poly life and cutting the Anteater lead to 3-2.
Sophomore center fielder Reagan Doss singled, advancing Lee to third with one out. Villegas then tattooed a triple to center field to score Lee and Doss, giving the Mustangs their first lead of the series at 4-3.
Senior reliever Jason Franks picked up his fifth save of the season to secure the Mustang victory.
Redshirt junior starting pitcher Travis Weston turned in seven innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. Sophomore reliever Bryce Warrecker (1-0) received the win after working a scoreless eighth inning.
Thanks once again to late-inning heroics—this time of the bullpen—, the Mustangs secured their second straight win over UCI on Sunday by a score of 7-6, and took the series two games to one.
At first, it seemed like Saturday’s contest would play out opposite to Friday’s, as it was all Cal Poly for the first half of the game.
The scoring began in the third inning, following an error by the Anteaters that allowed senior third baseman Tate Samuelson, who led off the inning with a single, to advance to third. Freshman catcher Ryan Stafford then brought him home with a sacrifice fly to center to give the Mustangs their first run of the afternoon.
Cal Poly would proceed to tack on two more in the fourth, thanks to Lagattuta rocketing a 2-1 pitch to right-center for a bases-clearing, two-run, two-out double that scored Samuelson and Haas.
The Mustangs then added four more in their frame of the fifth, courtesy of sophomore second baseman Nick Marinconz’s RBI double, a two-run double by Haas off the right-field wall, and an RBI single by Samuelson to put them up 7-0.
However, Cal Poly wasn’t able to enjoy the lead for long, as UC Irvine came storming back in the bottom of the fifth, sending 11 batters to the plate for six runs on two hits, four walks and a hit batter.
The Mustangs managed to record two outs only surrendering three runs, but a throwing error by Lee allowed UCI’s rally to continue, and they scored three more before freshman southpaw Noah Larkin struck out Taishi Nakawake to end the inning. Larkin would go on to toss 1.2 more scoreless frames before turning things over to Franks.
Franks began his outing Saturday with one of the more clutch moments of the season so far for the Mustangs, as he entered the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning. With the Cal Poly lead hanging by a thread, he struck out Nakawake swinging on a 1-2 pitch to end the frame.
It was then smooth sailing the rest of the way for both Franks and his team, as he retired the side in order in both the eighth and ninth innings for the seven-out save, his sixth of the season, and gave Cal Poly the 7-6 win.
With the win, the Mustangs secured their first series win on the road against the Anteaters since 2017.
Up next, Cal Poly will look to make it three straight wins when they return home to face Stanford on Tuesday, Apr. 19 at 6 p.m. inside Baggett Stadium.