sheila sobchik

Cal Poly opens the 2006 baseball season this weekend, hosting Fresno State for a three-game series in Baggett Stadium.

Friday’s contest begins at 6 p.m., while first pitch for the Saturday and Sunday games will be at 1 p.m. All three games will be broadcast on the Internet at

Larry Lee, entering his fourth season as Mustang mentor, guided Cal Poly to a tie for second place in the Big West Conference with Long Beach State, both 14-7 last year. The Mustangs finished just two games behind 2004 national champion Cal State Fullerton in 2005 and finished 36-20, but was denied an NCAA Tournament berth.

Cal Poly broke five all-time school records, produced three national top-10 leaders in individual statistics and has won 74 games the last two seasons, but will lose five players this year. pitcher Garrett Olson, first baseman Bret Berglund and outfielder Brandon Roberts, and a pair of seniors, pitcher Jimmy Shull and catcher Kyle Blumenthal, to Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft last June.

Ten other seniors, including closer Mike Bille, who signed a free-agent contract prior to the draft, also are gone.

Top returnees include pitchers Gary Daley Jr. and Bud Norris, second baseman Brent Walker, third baseman Josh Lansford and outfielders Matt Cooper and Jimmy Van Ostrand. Van Ostrand, who hit .345 a year ago with four home runs and 25 RBIs, moves to first base this spring.

Fresno State was 30-29 a year ago but has earned a couple of national rankings this preseason, No. 25 by Baseball America and No. 40 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. The Bulldogs, coached for the fourth season by Mike Batesole (89-87, Cal State Fullerton ’90), have all eight returning position starters back as well as six pitchers (two starters) poised to make a run at the Western Athletic Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Top returnees include outfielder Nick Moresi (.352, 11 home runs, 54 RBIs in 2005) and third baseman Beau Mills (.319, 22 home runs, 63 RBIs). The Bulldog pitching staff is led by right-hander Doug Fister (7-6, 4.32 ERA), southpaw Eddie Romero (6-4, 4.62 ERA) and closer Ryan Penn (2-3, 4.35, three saves).

A year ago at Pete Beiden Field, the Mustangs swept Fresno State for the first time in the 60-year history of the rivalry, beginning Cal Poly’s run of 26 wins in its final 37 games, including four of six, 12 of 18 and 21 of 29. The Bulldogs still own a 108-48 advantage in the series dating back to 1945.

In addition to Olson’s 12 wins, other school records were broken by Bille with 14 saves last season and 15 in his career, Olson’s 136 innings pitched in 2005 and Cal Poly’s 19 saves as a team. Olson finished the regular season in the top 10 in four national statistical categories while Bille was tied for third in saves and Roberts tied for fourth in triples.

With the exception of an exhibition game against British Columbia on Feb. 8, Cal Poly will play its next nine games on the road, beginning Feb. 3-5 at San Jose State. The Mustangs also visit Loyola Marymount on Feb. 10-12 and San Diego State on Feb. 17-19.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *