No. 17 Cal Poly baseball secured another conference series victory after taking two of three against Long Beach State from Friday, Apr. 8 through Sunday, Apr. 9 at Baggett Stadium.
The Mustangs (20-12, 7-2 Big West) now sit in second place in the Big West, behind just UC Santa Barbara. Meanwhile, the Dirtbags (15-15, 5-7 Big West) are in eighth place.
Cal Poly took down the Long Beach State Dirtbags 4-1 due to a hot first inning and strong pitching on Friday, Apr. 8 to open up the series.
After a scoreless first from the Dirtbag offense, sophomore shortstop Brooks Lee took the first pitch he saw over the right-centerfield wall for his seventh home run of the season. Sophomore first baseman Joe Yorke followed with a walk, setting up junior catcher/outfielder Collin Villegas, who sent his own blast deep over the left-field wall.
“Hitting with runners on base is a lot easier and gives you a lot more confidence,” Villegas said. “[The two homers] set the tone for everyone. Even though we didn’t score again, we were just riding high.”
A hit-by-pitch and fielder’s choice set up designated hitter Matt Lopez, who singled to right-center and put the Mustangs up 4-0 through one inning.
While the team did not score again, the Mustangs got all nine hitters up to bat in the first. The Dirtbags took their starting pitcher, Jack Noble, out in the first after he allowed four runs on three hits. He exited the game with an ERA of 28.00.
The first inning rally was held down by commanding pitching for the rest of the game.
On the bump, ace right-handed sophomore Drew Thorpe pitched seven innings, allowing only one run on six hits and a walk.
While scoreless, the bottom frame of the second was full of emotions. Lee was rung up on a full-count pitch he thought was a ball. Then, to end the inning, Villegas was called out at first on a close throw that erupted boo’s inside Baggett Stadium.
Long Beach State got their first hit in the third, but the Mustangs held it down defensively. Sophomore second baseman Nick Marinconz made a leaping catch to keep runners from advancing. The Green and Gold then ended the inning on a 4-6-3 double play.
Thorpe had three-up, three-down innings in the fourth, fifth and sixth. On the other side of the ball, the Mustangs were able to reach bases on a trio of bobbles from the Dirtbags shortstop during these innings but were unable to capitalize.
Thorpe had five defensive assists on the night. Most notably, in the fifth, he made an off-balance throw off of his back foot from the third baseline back to first to get the out.
Long Beach scored its first run in the seventh to cut the Mustang lead to 4-1. Despite that, Thorpe struck out the batter to end the inning and he came off the mound yelling in cheer.
Senior righthander Jason Franks came in for Thorpe in the eighth inning, someone head coach Larry Lee described as “the one guy that can close a game.”
When Franks entered in the eighth inning, he struck out the side to get the Mustangs out of a bases-loaded jam. The dugout was the loudest it had been all night – building off of each strikeout.
“[Getting looking strikeouts] is new to me,” Franks said. “I like to think most of the strikeouts are swinging, but lately the bats are on the shoulders.”
In the ninth, Franks’ high-spin fastball did just that. He got all three of the Dirtbags he faced to strike out swinging to secure the 4-1 win in the series opener. Franks recorded all his outs on strikeouts – three looking and three swinging.
Long Beach State scored in every frame but the ninth, tied a Cal Poly Division I record and set another during their 28-2 rout of Cal Poly on Saturday.
The 28 runs given up by the Mustangs tied a record for most runs scored by an opponent—CSUN tallied the same count against Cal Poly in 1995—and the Dirtbags’ 32 hits broke the mark for the most allowed by the Mustangs, which was previously 29.
Similar to Friday’s victory, Cal Poly scored all of its runs in the first inning. Senior third baseman Tate Samuelson singled to left field to drive in both runs, one of them courtesy of an obstruction call on Long Beach State third baseman Jonathon Long. This tied the game at 2-2 after the Dirtbags had scored in the top of the first on a pair of solo homers.
Long Beach State broke the deadlock with two in the second inning and then proceeded to erupt for 18 runs over the next three frames—followed by six more in the three frames after that—to pull away and seal the win before the game truly got started.
On the scorecard, it was Jauron Watts-Brown (4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K on 52 pitches) receiving the win for the Dirtbags, improving his record to 1-3. The loss went to redshirt junior Travis Weston (3-2), who threw just 35 pitches and surrendered five runs on eight hits to go with two strikeouts over two innings.
Offensively, it was Samuelson who was Saturday’s sole provider. In addition to his single in the first, Cal Poly’s only other hit was a single up the middle by Samuelson with one out in the ninth. Brooks Lee went 0-for-4 as his 19-game hitting streak came to an end.
As a team, the Mustangs put together one of their worst hitting games of the year,, as they were outhit 32-2. Additionally, Cal Poly was a measly 1-for-10 with two outs (the Dirtbags went 13-for-23), 1-for-9 with runners on base compared to Long Beach State’s 22-for-39 and 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position, while the Dirtbags went 16-for-26.
This loss snapped a nine-game home winning streak for the Mustangs, and it was the first road win against Cal Poly since 2015 for Long Beach State.
Despite the annihilation in game two, the Mustangs bounced back on Sunday with a 10-7 win to clinch the series and move their conference record to 7-2.
Like Friday, Sunday’s matchup was kicked off by a first-inning Cal Poly rally. Brooks Lee singled and Villegas walked on a full count. With two on and two outs, Marinconz hit an RBI single to jump out to the early lead.
Samuelson followed, taking the second pitch he saw to left field for an RBI single. Lopez then snuck one through the right side to make the score 3-1.
As the designated hitter, Lopez went 4-for-4 with two RBIs and a run to himself. This is the first four-hit game of Lopez’s Cal Poly career.
The Mustangs kept the rally going in the second, scoring three more times to make it 6-0 through two frames. In the nine-hole, sophomore center fielder Reagan Doss took a full-count walk, setting up leadoff hitter and freshman Ryan Stafford. Stafford took his first pitch into left and Doss moved over on the outfield fly out. Yorke then sent Doss home on a sacrifice fly.
In his second at-bat of the game, Villegas roped another ball out the park – making it two in the series and three on the year.
Villegas is currently batting .307 with 27 RBIs and 14 doubles to go along with a .591 slugging percentage and a .427 on-base percentage.
“What happens is if you’re productive in the lower half [of your lineup], you allow your better hitters to get another at-bat later in the ball game,” Coach Lee said about the bottom of his lineup.
Senior righty Dylan Villalobos tossed four innings, allowing one run on three hits. Right-handed junior Zach Button (5-0) came in for mid-relief and earned the win, keeping his ERA at 1.40 through 19.1 IP.
The Dirtbags got their first run in the fifth, which led to the pitching substitution mentioned above. Cal Poly struck back later in the inning and in the seventh, getting two runs in each.
In the fifth, Lopez’s second RBI single of the game brought Marinconz home, who had reached on a double. Doss followed up with a double of his own, scoring Lopez.
In the seventh, Lopez reached first on an infield single. Junior Taison Corio came in to pinch run and subsequently stole second base. After a walk from Doss, Stafford pushed a 3-1 pitch down the first-base line to score both.
Despite the relatively comfortable 10-1 lead, sophomore righty Kyle Scott allowed the Dirtbags to crawl back in the eighth. He allowed four runs to come in, two off of wild pitches. Franks came in to close the game, but not before two runs came across to make the final score 10-7.
The Mustangs will try to continue to climb in the conference and national rankings with a series against UC Irvine that begins on Thursday, Apr. 14 at Cicerone Field at Anteater Ballpark.