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An approaching storm moved up Sunday’s scheduled 1 p.m. start time by one hour, but the early start wasn’t be enough to jump start the skidding Cal Poly baseball team (1-6), which dropped its third straight game against Grand Canyon (7-0), this time losing 9-3 in Baggett Stadium.
The Mustangs have now been swept twice in two series this season and are still searching for their first home win.
“They’re a good team,” junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen said of Grand Canyon. “They came out and did everything right, and we should have been doing that. They came out on top.”
After Cal Poly sophomore starting pitcher Justin Calomeni got the Mustangs out to a fast start by setting down the side in the first inning, Cal Poly got its first scoring opportunity of the game after Van Gansen led off the bottom of the inning with a single. He then reached second after a balk by Grand Canyon junior starter Cameron Brendel.
However, after Van Gansen advanced to third, he was thrown out at home on the Mustangs’ second squeeze attempt in as many games — their first was a success in Saturday night’s 4-2 loss.
The Mustangs would leave two on base in the inning after junior first baseman John Schuknecht flew out to leave the score 0-0.
Following one-two-three innings by both the Antelopes and the Mustangs, Calomeni gave up a walk to start the third. He looked like he’d get out of the inning unscathed when short stop Van Gansen threw out senior first baseman Humberto Aranda on a fielder’s choice. However, Grand Canyon opened the scoring later in the top of the third inning when the Mustangs’ 16th and 17th errors on the season led to unearned Grand Canyon runs.
With freshman third baseman Ben Mauseth on first, a ground out put Calomeni just one out away from a third straight scoreless inning when the Antelopes’ best hitter, senior left fielder David Walker, came up to bat.
Calomeni got the ground ball to the shortstop he was looking for, but Schuknecht was unable to handle a slightly low throw by Van Gansen for the Mustangs’ first error of the game.
Junior shortstop Paul Panaccione would make the Mustangs pay in the next at-bat, when his single to right field plated Mauseth. Panaccione reached second on the play, as senior right fielder Zack Zehner had trouble getting the ball to the infield, resulting in Cal Poly’s second error of the inning.
Grand Canyon would get another run in the next at-bat, when senior infielder Chad De La Guerra reached on an infield single, followed by a bases-clearing triple by freshman right fielder Garrison Schwartz, which gave the visitors a 4-0 lead after three innings. All four Grand Canyon runs were unearned.
“You try not to let (the errors) affect you at all,” Calomeni said. “We’ve been through it a lot. Everyone makes errors, you just try to keep it going pitch by pitch. I tried to do that, but it didn’t go our way.”
Calomeni finished with a loss after allowing the four unearned runs on five hits in 6 innings of work to go along with five strikeouts and three walks.
The four unearned runs given up by the Mustangs and two errors committed in the inning are a common theme to the young 2015 season. Cal Poly has already surrendered 18 unearned runs and committed 17 errors in just seven games.
“(It’s a) combination of ability level and confidence,” head coach Larry Lee said of the errors. “There’s a lot of self-doubt in a number of our players, and the options that we have are very limited. It’s a big domino effect. You take one guy out of the lineup like [Mark] Mathias, it forces you to play a certain defense and then when one of those guy can’t play a particular position it just snowballs.”
The score stayed at 4-0 through six innings, as Mustangs batters only put two on base against Brendel — a walk in the fifth by freshman outfielder Josh George and a leadoff single in the sixth by Van Gansen.
In the seventh, the Antelopes pounced all over Cal Poly’s pitching, getting their fifth straight leadoff hitter on base with an Aranda double into center field off of freshman pitcher Alex Gironda.
“I’ve said before: We’re not a very good ball club, and can we get there? I don’t know,” Lee said. “There’s too many holes in our team from a lot of different areas, from pitching to offense to defense… Guys are getting opportunities, but I don’t know how quickly it’s going to turn around.”
The Antelopes finished with 14 hits to the Mustangs’ five. It was the first time Cal Poly has been out-hit this year.
Late runs by the Mustangs in the final three innings — a pinch-hit RBI double by freshman catcher Austin Kron in the seventh, a double by sophomore infielder Alec Smith in the eighth and an RBI ground out by Kron again in the ninth — avoided the shutout, but the late offense wouldn’t be enough to salvage the game or the series.
The loss dropped Calomeni to 0-2 on the season, while Brendel got the win to move to 2-0.
“We’re not mentally prepared as much as we should be,” Van Gansen said. “We need to work on the little things, and once we do that I think we’ll be fine.”
The Mustangs will have Monday off before they try to get back into the win column against Bakersfield at home Tuesday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.