Cal Poly Baseball won its first Big West Conference series of the year in a three-game set against UC Irvine from Friday, March 24 through Sunday, March 27 at Baggett Stadium.
The Mustangs’ (6-14, 3-3 Big West) two wins came in the late innings while the Anteaters (13-7, 2-4 Big West) lost their second conference series in a row.
Cal Poly opened up the series with a back-and-forth 5-4 win over UC Irvine.
The Anteaters didn’t waste any time, taking a 1-0 lead after an RBI double in the first inning.
The Mustangs quickly responded by grabbing a 2-1 lead after a bases-loaded wild pitch and an RBI walk from freshman outfielder Wyatt King.
After a scoreless second, UC Irvine managed to load the bases and bring in two runs on a two-RBI single to take a 3-2 lead after the third inning.
Cal Poly got a run back in the fifth inning thanks to an RBI double from senior left fielder Collin Villegas to tie the game at three apiece.
Junior starter Bryce Warrecker was relieved after 5.2 innings of three-run ball by junior righty Derek True, who finished the inning off without a hitch.
The seventh inning saw the Anteaters take their second lead of the game on an RBI single to bring the score to 4-3.
With runners on the corners in their half of the seventh, the Mustangs responded with an RBI groundout from junior first baseman Joe Yorke to tie the game at 4-4.
Following a throwing error from the UC Irvine pitcher, the Green and Gold took the lead after senior infielder Taison Corio laid down a bunt that was thrown past the first baseman and scored the go-ahead run to put the Mustangs up 5-4 in the eighth.
Junior righty Kyle Scott came in to get the save in the ninth, and although he loaded the bases, he got out of it to close out the 5-4 win.
On the day of the rededication of former-Mustang Ozzie Smith’s statue behind Hoffman Press Box, Cal Poly dropped the second game of the series 9-7, despite having a 5-0 lead early on.
After a scoreless first, the Mustang offense exploded for a five-run second inning capped off by a grand slam from junior center fielder Jake Steels to put them up 5-0.
UC Irvine got a run back in the third with an RBI single to cut the lead to 5-1.
A scoreless fourth was followed up by anything but in the fifth, as the Anteaters tied the game up on a sacrifice fly, RBI single and two-run home run.
UC Irvine followed that up by taking a 6-5 lead in the sixth on another sacrifice fly.
While Cal Poly struggled to get anything going on offense, the Anteaters added to their lead by loading the bases, walking in two runs and adding on another sacrifice fly to take a 9-5 lead in the seventh.
The Mustangs wouldn’t go quietly, however, as they added on two runs of their own in the seventh after sophomore catcher Ryan Stafford brought in a run on a sacrifice fly, and Villegas smacked an RBI single to cut the lead to 9-7 after seven.
The next two innings saw traffic on the bases for Cal Poly, but they couldn’t bring any of those runners in as UC Irvine closed out the 9-7 win.
In the rubber match, Cal Poly closed it out with a 7-3 win powered by a grand slam from Stafford.
Junior righty Kaden Sheedy got the start and pitched four innings of one-run ball along with five strikeouts.
Sheedy was followed up by redshirt sophomore lefty Chris Baytosh for two-thirds of an inning while redshirt junior Ryan Baum closed out the last four innings without allowing a run.
UC Irvine didn’t waste any time as they took a quick 1-0 lead in their half of the first inning, while the Mustangs responded right away in the bottom half of the inning with an RBI single from Yorke to tie things up at one each.
Following a scoreless second, Villegas blasted a solo home run into left field to take a 2-1 Cal Poly lead in the third.
The Anteaters fought back and scored two runs after an error and took a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning.
The next few innings remained scoreless until the eighth inning when the Mustangs loaded the bases once again and tied the game on a Steels RBI single, which was followed up by a Stafford grand slam to take a late 7-3 lead.
Baum stayed in the game in the ninth and closed the door on UC Irvine en route to the 7-3 final.
The offense for the weekend was led by Steels and Villegas, who led the team in hits with five each in 13 and 11 at-bats, respectively.
Cal Poly will now travel to take on Fresno State in a midweek non-conference matchup on Tuesday, March 28 at 6:05 p.m. at Bob Bennett Stadium.