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A step in the right direction, yes. But the Cal Poly baseball team is still searching for its first home win of the season after Saturday night’s 4-2 loss in game two of the three-game series against Grand Canyon.
Starting pitcher Kyle Smith gave up three runs, all of them earned, on three hits to go along with eight strikeouts and one walk in 5 innings of work. The freshman southpaw showed off convincing command of the strike zone and pitched good enough to win in his first-ever college start, despite being charged with the loss.
“I felt great,” Smith said. “It felt good just getting out there and just trying to help the team get our first home win.”
After getting a ground ball out to start the game, Smith struck out the next eight Antelopes he faced and didn’t give up a up a walk or hit until the Antelopes’ two-run fifth inning.
“I would like to be like that every day,” Smith said after the game. “Maybe that was just today but I’m just going to keep showing up every day and just get out there and compete. Things didn’t go our way at the end but you know we made a step in the right direction today.”
After giving up six or more runs in each of their first five games, Smith and the Mustangs’ bullpen finished with their best game of the season, giving up just five hits and the four runs.
“Kyle’s got the best makeup of any of our pitchers,” manager Larry Lee said. “He did a real good job for us and got us five innings of a solid start and then (Danny) Zandona and (Michael) Gomez also had a good outing. We took a slight step in the right direction.”
The scoring started when Smith came back down to earth after his other-worldly start. A walk to start the fifth inning was followed by a single by Antelopes right fielder Garrison Schwartz. Then, after Josh Meyer sacrifice bunt advanced the baserunners into scoring position, third baseman Ben Mauseth brought in the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly to left-center field.
First baseman Humberto Aranda followed Meyer with a double down the left field line which brought home Mauseth to put Grand Canyon up 2-0.
Smith would induce a ground ball the next at-bat to end the inning.
In the bottom of the side, Cal Poly’s offense, the team’s only bright spot so far in the season, answered with two runs of its own. Things got started when junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen drew a walk off Antelopes senior right hander, starter Coley Bruns, to lead off the inning.
After a popout by senior centerfielder Jordan Ellis, senior rightfielder Zack Zehner hit a standup triple into right-center field to drive home Van Gansen and cut the Antelopes’ lead to just one.
Following the Zehner RBI, junior second baseman Ryan Drobny came up to bat. Drobny sent a perfectly executed squeeze bunt down the third-base line to bring home the running Zehner and tie the game at 2-2. Drobny, who reached second via an Antelopes’ throwing error on the bunt, would get no further as the Mustangs’ threat was ended by reliever Jake Rapavich who struck out sophomore designated hitter Brett Barbier to send the game into the sixth.
Bruns finished with two earned runs on five hits and walked three to go along with five strikeouts,
In the sixth, the Antelopes would get one more in the sixth off of Mustangs senior reliever Danny Zandona in an inning that included two singles, a Kevin Morgan error on a routine fly-ball, and an RBI groundout.
Zandona would get out of the jam by striking out Meyer and Mauseth, but for the Mustangs the damage was done.
“We’re not a good defensive team,” Lee said. “We’re very unathletic on defense and we give our opponents too many opportunities and good teams are going to take advantage of those.”
Despite their best pitching game of the year thus far and mistake-free baseball up until the lead-surrendering sixth, the Mustangs would finish with three errors on the night.
In the final three innings the Mustangs would fail to cash in on any opportunties against the Antelopes bullpen, though they brought the tying run to the plate on more than one occasion.
The Mustangs finished with six hits to go with their two runs and three errors while the Antelopes had five hits in support of their four runs and ended with two errors of their own.
Cal Poly will look to continue to improve Sunday and salvage the final game of the three-game. Cal Poly sophomore right-hander Justin Calomeni will face Grand Canyon junior right-hander Cameron Brendel.
“I think we just keep doing what we’re doing,” Smith said. “We’ve been working hard all fall and we have the right approach we just need to start stringing things together and just keep doing what we’re doing.”
First pitch is at 1 p.m. at Baggett Stadium.