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It’s been an up-and-down season for the Cal Poly baseball team, but the Mustangs are looking strong coming down the final stretch. After winning the first two games of its series with UC Riverside, Cal Poly captured its second series sweep of the season with a 11-1 victory on Sunday.
Freshman starter Jarred Zill provided some much-needed innings for the Cal Poly pitching staff. He allowed just a single run in his seven innings of work, the longest outing in his Cal Poly career. Zill is the seventh different starting pitcher the Mustangs have put on the mound for a series finale this season.
“He is getting better and better,” head coach Larry Lee said. “A couple real good outings in a row. He pitched seven innings and allowed one run on a very offensive day today with basically a fastball and change-up only. That’s part of our future.”
Sunday was Cal Poly’s senior day, so it was only fitting that some of the elder players made key contributions in what is likely to be their final game at Baggett Stadium.
Senior outfielders Zach Zehner and Jordan Ellis, along with senior third baseman Tommy Pluschkell, each collected hits on Sunday. The final games of their collegiate careers will take place later this week with a series at UC Davis.
Junior outfielder John Schuknecht opened the scoring with a scorching line-drive double down the left field line. A single from Pluschkell quickly added another run in the second inning and a RBI double to left center by sophomore catcher Brett Barbier was the highlight of the third inning. After collecting only 6 RBIs in the first 31 games of the season, Barbier has 27 RBIs in his last 20 games alone.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, junior second baseman Mark Mathias hit his first home run of the season, the third of his Cal Poly career. Mathias, who leads the team with 65 hits and a .353 batting average, is projected to be chosen somewhere in the first three rounds of next month’s MLB Draft. Zehner, Ellis, junior starter Casey Bloomquist, junior designated hitter Brian Mundell and junior short stop Peter Van Gansen all figure to be chosen by Major League teams.
A double down the right field off the bat of Ellis scored two more in the eighth. The senior closed out his career at Baggett Stadium with a two-hit, two-RBI performance. Like a few of his fellow seniors, Ellis got a nod from the appreciative home fans.
“It was cool to get that little standing ovation from the crowd,” Ellis said. “There was a lot of energy today.”
Relief pitcher and fifth-year senior Taylor Chris came in to pitch in the top of the eighth inning. His scoreless 1 1/3 inning was the proper send-off to one of the most experienced Mustangs on the roster. To close out the game, head coach Larry Lee put in another senior, Danny Zandona. The right-handed relief pitcher threw the last two outs to finish off an 11-1 Cal Poly victory.
“People say it goes by quick, but I can remember every moment from my freshman year to here,” Chris said. “I have enjoyed my whole experience here, and it was great to get a win today.”
While the Mustangs (26-25, 13-8 Big West Conference) haven’t lived up to the elevated expectations bestowed upon them in the preseason, Sunday’s comfortable victory was another glimpse of the talent on this year’s squad. Cal Poly closes out its season with a three-game series at UC Davis starting Friday.