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On the heels of a sweep of Hawaii over the weekend, the Cal Poly baseball team’s chances against Fresno State on Tuesday night looked promising.
After Fresno State took an early four-run lead, those chances dwindled significantly, but a hard-charging Cal Poly team turned the tables with a late comeback, defeating the Bulldogs 10-6 in Baggett Stadium.
Cal Poly struck first, starting the scoring with an RBI single from sophomore catcher Brett Barbier. Freshman starting pitcher Jarred Zill looked good early, too, shutting out Fresno State for the game’s first two innings. However, a fielding error and two wild pitches in the top of the third ignited the Bulldogs offense.
Fresno State left fielder Taylor Tempel’s double down the line scored two, and a single from hot-hitting catcher Taylor Ward scored another. Pretty soon Zill was out of the game and Fresno State (18-19, 9-6 Mountain West Conference) found itself in possession of an early 5-1 lead.
When the Mustangs entered the bottom half of the sixth inning, the score was 6-2 and the chill temperature seemed to mirror the cool Cal Poly offense. But after a couple of walks, the Mustangs were threatening with runners on first and second with All-American junior second baseman Mark Mathias at the plate.
Mathias did not disappoint, lining a double into the right-field gap that scored two and started the sixth-inning comeback. Junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen followed suit, doubling down the right-field line to score Mathias. The Mustangs had pulled within one run in a matter of moments.
A Barbier double to right field scored two more to continue the sixth-inning rally, giving the Mustangs the lead. But given the back-and-forth nature of the game, one run was far from enough to be comfortable.
“Our focus has really been on picking the next guy up in the lineup and get the job done,” Barbier said. “I haven’t really been thinking of getting a bunch of hits, just trying to piece good at-bats together.”
With two runners on and Barbier at the plate in the bottom of the eighth, the Mustangs found themselves in a familiar situation. This time, Barbier one-upped himself with a three-bagger that scored two vital insurance runs for Cal Poly.
Senior reliever Taylor Chris performed exceptionally to hold off any hopes of a Fresno State comeback. He pitched two shutout innings after coming into the game in the top of the seventh. Chris credits his effectiveness to his simple pitching approach.
“We actually threw all changeups tonight, that was the only pitch I threw,” Chris said.
Danny Zandona closed out the 1-2 punch from the backend of the bullpen by striking out the side in the ninth inning.
Barbier showed up big for the Mustangs at the plate, going 4-for-5 with five RBIs and the clutch extra-base hits. Mathias, Van Gansen and senior outfielder Zack Zehner each had multihit games, with the first two picking up two RBIs apiece.
This is the fourth straight come-from-behind victory and the fifth straight victory overall for the Mustangs. The team is starting to come together right around conference play, something Coach Larry Lee attributes to a relaxed team atmosphere.
“This deep in the season, there is no panic in the dugout,” Lee said.
The Mustangs (15-18 4-2 Big West Conference) kick off an important three-game series against conference rival UC Santa Barbara on Friday at 3 p.m. in enemy territory.