Harry Chang & Stephan Teodosescu
[follow id = “harrychangmn”] [follow id = “steodosescu”]
For the second Sunday in a row, the Cal Poly baseball team had the winning runs on base in the final frame but couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity to complete a series sweep.
Down by two with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, senior center fielder Jordan Ellis fouled out to the third baseman, giving the Mustangs a 6-4 loss to Cal State Northridge at Baggett Stadium. The same story played out last Sunday, as sophomore catcher Brett Barbier struck out with two men on and Cal Poly down by a run to Long Beach State in the bottom of the 10th inning.
“We had opportunities,” head coach Larry Lee said. “If you look at statistics of hitting with runners in scoring position, there are guys who are successful and guys who aren’t, and that’s a sign of a quality hitter, is guys who can produce with runners in scoring position. But there’s too many times where we have a chance to do some damage but don’t come through.”
Despite winning the three-game set against the Matadors with victories on Friday and Saturday, the Mustangs dropped to 21-23 overall and 9-6 in the Big West standings. Cal State Northridge moved to 27-19 and 6-12 in conference.
Sophomore pitcher Slater Lee (1-1) earned the loss after giving up five runs on five hits, including two home runs to the Matadors’ Albee Weiss, in 3 1/3 innings.
“We don’t have enough starting pitching,” Larry Lee said. “Simple as that. It’s hard for us to put together 27 innings of quality pitching. We’re fully loaded out of the bullpen. We just need three or four innings of one-run ball to start.”
The Matadors jumped on Slater Lee early when Weiss hit a three-run home run in the top of the second inning. From there, Cal State Northridge tacked on runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings before Cal Poly brought it within two in a four-run seventh inning. But the Mustangs left the bases loaded in the ninth to end their hopes of a series sweep.
Cal Poly was paced by senior left fielder Zack Zehner’s three hits, including a three-run homer to left center. Junior second baseman Mark Mathias also had three hits on the day, while sophomore shortstop Peter Van Gansen collected an RBI.
“It was a must-win today in our eyes,” Zehner said. “I’m glad I was able to come up in a situation where I could put some runs on the board.”
On Saturday, Barbier knocked in four runs while freshman southpaw Kyle Smith went eight innings and allowed one run in Cal Poly’s 7-1 series-clinching victory.
Barbier, who has 19 RBI in his last 12 games, smacked a three-run triple in the first inning and knocked in another in the seventh. He had seven RBI through the first 25 games of the season before his hot streak.
Mathias also collected two hits in that contest and extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Smith allowed six hits and struck out six for his fifth win of the season on the mound.
Cal Poly will welcome San Jose State for a midweek home game on Tuesday before heading south to play conference-leading UC Irvine (28-16, 11-4) on the road.
“We have to win every game on the weekend,” senior reliever Taylor Chris, who went 5 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in relief of Slater Lee on Sunday, said. “We don’t have a choice.”