In a doubleheader that was scheduled to avoid incoming rain, the Cal Poly baseball team went undefeated against the University of San Francisco to continue its consistent play to open up the season.
The Mustangs (9-2) took the first game over the Dons (2-10) in walk-off fashion, scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to take the series opener 2-1. Cal Poly won the second game a little more comfortably, beating USF 10-5 while rain periodically poured on the players.
Sophomore starting pitcher Kyle Smith did not disappoint in Friday’s first game. The southpaw was good for eight innings of work, collecting eight strikeouts along the way while allowing only a single earned run. But without any run support in the first eight innings, Smith left the game in position to pick up a hard-luck loss.
Cal Poly came by a much-needed offensive outburst in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Mustangs had four hits in the inning, the same amount they totaled for the previous eight.
An RBI single from senior right fielder John Schuknecht tied the game and helped set up a bases-loaded situation for freshman first baseman Cooper Moore. With the chance to end the game, Moore came through with a single over the shortstop’s head and the most important RBI of his young Cal Poly career.
“I didn’t really care what the result was going to be, I was just trying to hit it hard up the middle,” Moore said. “I was calm because the game was already tied and I knew that someone else behind me could have easily scored the run.”
In the second game of the doubleheader, the Mustangs scored the majority of their runs in the seventh inning.
After scoring a run to open the game in the first inning, Cal Poly came back with three more runs in the third frame. Schuknecht was involved yet again, picking up a triple and double in his first two at bats. The starting right fielder had at least two hits in each of the day’s two games.
“Just trying to keep things simple tonight, making sure I actually saw the pitch before swinging at it,” Schuknecht said. “Some of the pitchers we faced had low velocity so I was just trying to take a right-center field approach.”
Cal Poly broke the game open in the bottom of the seventh inning. An RBI triple to right field from junior third baseman Michael Sanderson scored two Mustangs, and a double from freshman center fielder Alex McKenna scored two more. Cal Poly wound up collecting six runs on seven hits in the inning, giving the Mustang pitching staff plenty to work with to close out the game.
Junior Slater Lee started on the mound for the Mustangs in the second game, holding the Dons to only two runs in over four innings of work before former starting pitcher Justin Calomeni came relieved him.
Embracing his new role in the bullpen after an offseason injury, Calomeni did not yield a single run to USF and struck out five batters in less than three innings of work. The junior right-hander could be a cornerstone of the Mustang bullpen, though the pitching staff is very much a work in progress according to head coach Larry Lee.
“[Justin] has thrown hard out of the bullpen the last couple years and he is probably more suited for the bullpen,” Lee said. “We are hoping that we can sure up our starters and keep them out of the bullpen, if we can do that then that will make our bullpen a lot better. We need a strong bullpen.”
The series finale against the Dons is scheduled for Sunday at 1 pm with rain in the forecast. Cal Poly has won nine of 11 games on its current season-opening homestand. After Sunday, the Mustangs will head down to Malibu for a Tuesday matchup against Pepperdine, which will be followed by nine more consecutive road games.