Jefferson P. Nolan
Before Sunday’s game against Cal State Northridge, starting pitchers Joey Wagman and Matt Imhof had a running joke that freshman Casey Bloomquist would never be able to make it past the seventh inning on the mound.
“They’ve all (pitched) longer than he has,” Cal Poly pitching coach Thomas Eager said. “He’s never been able to get into the seventh, so to see him do that … it was amazing, to be honest.”
But during Sunday’s afternoon matchup, Bloomquist killed the joke as he helped secure a sweep for the Cal Poly baseball team (37-16, 15-9 Big West) in a 7-2 victory over the Matadors at Baggett Stadium.
Bloomquist, normally Tuesday’s nonconference game starting pitcher, made his first Sunday start in his Cal Poly career against Cal State Northridge (31-23, 15-9) and helped the Mustangs catapult themselves into a tie for second place in the Big West.
It was after his last pitching performance — a win against Cal State Bakersfield — that head coach Larry Lee told Bloomquist to rest up for Sunday’s game.
“I was cleaning up and doing my job after the game, and (Lee) said, ‘Hey, you’ve got Sunday. Get ready,’” Bloomquist said. “It got me fired up. I was excited.”
Bloomquist started the game with a six-pitch first inning, and the Mustangs wasted no time on offense as senior second baseman Denver Chavez turned some heads as he put a charge into the second pitch of the game, sending the ball sailing over the left-field wall.
“It’s big to do that,” Chavez said. “We wanted to make sure we came out hot on Sunday so we could tack on. It was (Bloomquist’s) first Sunday start, so we wanted to get some runs for him. For me, it was nice because I haven’t hit (a home run) all year. It’s always good to get that nice hit out of the way.”
The Matadors showed some fight when, in the top of the fourth inning, catcher Alexis Mercado drove Bloomquist’s pitch off the center-field wall for an RBI double, evening the score at 1-1.
Cal Poly responded in the fifth inning when another leadoff home run, off the bat of senior Elliot Stewart, was belted once again over the head of Matadors left fielder Cal Vogelsang.
The Cal Poly sluggers continued to add on runs, and each time it was the seniors who sparked the offense — coming on senior day at Baggett Stadium.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” Chavez said. “I’ve been here for a long time, and it’s gone by so quick. It’s great to end it like this with good fans and a good win like this. I’m going to miss it.”
Bloomquist continued to flourish into the seventh inning until Lee decided it was time for relief pitcher Reed Reilly to close the door.
“I was kind of nervous going into the game that (Bloomquist) might try to do too much and put too much pressure on himself,” Eager said. “But he didn’t. I told him the moment he got here that he’s not a freshman. He’s a Cal Poly baseball player. There’s no such thing as freshman mistakes; we don’t do that here. He was confident enough to believe in what he can do, and he pitched a hell of a game.”
Now, with the Mustangs offense on track and with the arm of Bloomquist, Cal Poly will look to secure a bid in the NCAA regionals in its next series beginning Thursday against Pacific. A sweep of the ninth-place Tigers would give the Mustangs 40 wins and, in all likelihood, their first berth to the postseason since 2009.
And after his first Sunday victory, Bloomquist is confident he and his team are ready to raise a few eyebrows.
“Keep watching us,” Bloomquist said. ‘We’re going to be opening some eyes.”