Ryan Chartrand

In nearly every game this season, things have looked good for the Cal Poly baseball team at one point or another. Then the Mustangs gave up leads – 23 times, to be exact, over the course of their 30 losses, which have rendered their season-ending series at UC Riverside without playoff implications.

“It’s emotionally draining to go on that rollercoaster, to do well and then not quite finishing,” said Mustangs senior second baseman Pat Pezet. “But you’ve got to forget about it and move on.”

After being swept at home by No. 25 Long Beach State last weekend, Cal Poly will try to end on an upswing through its three-game Big West Conference series opening at 7 tonight in the Riverside Sports Complex.

“We just want to play well, and make sure we’re trying to get better individually and as a team, mostly for the players who’ll return next year,” Mustangs head coach Larry Lee said. “It’s important to continue to build whatever development they’ve had.”

For UC Riverside (19-32, 12-9), coming off an 18-9 Tuesday defeat at the hands of Pepperdine – its fifth-straight loss – only junior second baseman Drew Garcia (batting .351 with 14 doubles and 50 RBI) and sophomore right fielder Joey Gonzales (.330, 27 RBI) are hitting better than .287.

The Mustangs (23-30, 7-14), who uncharacteristically hit just .204 against the Dirtbags, are driven offensively by junior third baseman Brent Morel (batting .364 with 56 RBI), junior center fielder Logan Schafer (.358, 48 RBI), junior right fielder Ryan Lee (.352, 19 RBI) and sophomore designated hitter Luke Yoder (.350, 32 RBI).

Playing into the Mustangs’ hands, Lee said, could be the inexperience of the Highlanders, who boast just one pitcher with more than two wins – freshman right-hander Matt Larkins, who’s 6-5 with a 7.01 ERA.

Lee said senior right-hander Brian Grening (3-5, with a 5.31 ERA) will likely start for the Mustangs tonight against sophomore southpaw Paul Applebee (2-5, 5.07 ERA).

“With the wear and tear of the season, everyone is tired,” Pezet said. “But we’ve got to try to go out on a high note for the seniors and guys being drafted, and also the guys who’re going to keep playing here, so they can have some positive momentum going into the summer.”

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 2 p.m., with Sunday’s start slated for 1 p.m.

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