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After losing six of its first seven games, the Cal Poly baseball team (2-6) righted the ship on Tuesday, beating Cal State Bakersfield (3-5) by a dominating score of 13-2. Cal Poly’s much-needed second win of the season halts an ugly stretch of early season play, including series sweeps from Baylor and for-profit university Grand Canyon.
“One step in the right direction, but we still have a ways to go,” head coach Larry Lee said.
Tuesday’s victory over Bakersfield marks the end of Cal Poly’s four-game home stand. A reenergized Cal Poly team hopes to carry a bit of momentum to Texas when it takes on the No. 1 team in the country, according to Collegiate Baseball newspaper, in TCU this weekend.
On Tuesday, the Mustangs welcomed back their second-team All-American from a year ago, second baseman Mark Mathias. The junior will lead off at DH until he has healed enough to play his normal position at second.
When freshman second baseman Alec Smith committed an error on a weak ground ball to open the game, it looked like more of the same for the Mustangs. But freshman pitcher Andrew Bernstein kept the Roadrunners at bay, and a Zack Zehner ground out would give Cal Poly the early 1-0 advantage.
A single up the middle from Smith would extend the Cal Poly lead to three runs after three innings. A single from hot-hitting junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen, a ground out from Zehner and a John Schuknecht sacrifice fly all scored runs for a productive Mustangs offense. After two innings, Cal Poly sat comfortably on a six-run lead.
Bernstein ran into trouble in the third inning, when the Roadrunners’ 6-foot-7 DH, Soloman Williams, scored two runs on a single that just eluded Smith’s glove. However, that was the extent of the damage done by the Roadrunners. The Mustangs got a run back when Mathias scorched an RBI double to the left-center field wall. Van Gansen helped tack on another run in the fifth inning with yet another RBI single. After five innings of play, the Mustangs led 9-2.
Except for the two runs in the third inning, Bernstein (2-0) pitched exquisitely. His 6 innings gave the developing Cal Poly bullpen time to save energy, and his eight strikeouts stunned unassuming Roadrunners hitters. The true freshman has the two lone wins for the Mustangs’ pitching staff this year.
“It’s hard not to be confident when your team puts 13 runs on the board,” Bernstein said.
Look for the Mustangs to utilize the freshman throughout the rest of the season.
Mathias performed exceptionally in his return to the diamond. The temporary DH reached base three times after going 2-for-4 with an RBI double and a hit by pitch. A semi-healthy Mathias is possibly the catalyst the Mustangs need to change this season’s lethargic start.
“I have been waiting for what feels like forever, so it feels good to get out there and compete with my teammates. I feel good; no pain,” Mathias said.
A two-run double by sophomore outfielder Kevin Morgan made it a 12-2 game in the eighth inning. The third RBI single of the night by Van Gansen ran the total up to 13-2, the final score as Cal Poly had its best hitting performance of the year.
Van Gansen went 4-for-6 with three RBIs, while his partner up the middle, Smith, nearly matched him with three hits and two RBIs of his own. The Mustangs had 13 hits on the night and hit .467 with runners in scoring position.
Fridays’ first pitch at TCU is set for 4:30 p.m.