The Cal Poly baseball team needed one clutch hit to change the complexion of their game Saturday night against the University of Houston. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the hit never materialized as Cal Poly left 13 runners on base and dropped the second game of the weekend series with the Cougars 6-2 in front of 1,070 fans at Baggett Stadium.
The win was Houston’s (7-5) fifth straight and clinched the series for the Cougars. The Mustangs (6-8) dropped their second game in-a-row and have an even 2-2 record on their current nine-game homestand.
The Cougars outhit the Mustangs 10-9 and were led by leadoff hitter Blake Kelso. Kelso had two hits and two RBIs on the night. Also, collecting multiple hits were Caleb Ramsey and Joel Ansley, who leads the Cougars in hitting with a .442 mark on the season.
Sophomore right-hander Michael Goodnight picked up his third win of the season for Houston, although he labored for most of the game. Goodnight pitched six innings allowing only two runs and striking out six. He also walked five batters and was visibly frustrated with the inconsistent strike zone of home plate umpire Phil Benson.
The outfield trio of Adam Melker, Mitch Haniger and Bobby Crocker each collected two hits for the Mustangs who squandered numerous opportunities throughout the night. They left the bases-loaded in the fourth and ninth innings.
Head coach Larry Lee said his team left too many runners on the base paths tonight and could not come up with the big hit.
“The middle of the order didn’t really produce tonight when it counted,” Lee said. “We had a few opportunities and weren’t able to cash in. That’s kind of in a nutshell how the whole season up to this date has been.”
The Mustangs were able to grab the lead in the first inning for the second consecutive night. Senior Luke Yoder led off the game for Cal Poly with a double down the left-field line. He scored on a fielder’s choice by catcher Ross Brayton to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead after one.
Cal Poly starter Kyle Anderson lasted only two innings after giving up three runs in the top of the second inning. The inning started with designated hitter M.P. Cokinos homering for the second night in a row to right-center field to tie the game at one. Austin Gracey and Blake Kelso added RBI singles for the Cougars, but Anderson was able to get Matt Creel to flyout to center with the bases loaded to end the inning. Anderson threw 45 pitches on the night and the Cougars led 3-1.
In the third inning, Melker extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a hustling double into shallow right-center field. He said he has not thought much about the hitting streak and is concentrating on executing from the two spot in the order.
“I’m just trying to get on base,” Melker said. “The hitting streak is great but if I do my job and don’t come out with a hit, I’m not upset.”
The Mustangs received a strong effort in relief from freshman Joey Wagman. He came in for Anderson in the third inning and threw 5 1/3 innings giving up only two runs on three hits and struck out seven.
Wagman said he was not expecting to be in the ball game as early as he was, but focused on trying to keep the Houston hitters off-balance.
“It really was just mixing their eye-level,” Wagman said. “We would go fastball in and then drop the curveball. The main goal was just throwing strikes.”
Both pitchers struggled to find the strike zone as each team traded bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the fourth and top of the fifth. Goodnight walked Luke Yoder on four pitches to cut the deficit to 3-2, but Wagman walked Jake Runte to push the lead back to two runs at 4-2. Yoder’s RBI walk would be the final run of the night for the Mustangs who went scoreless over the final five innings of play.
Houston added two insurance runs in the eighth inning. Ryan Still, who came on as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning, led the inning off with a single and was sacrificed over to second base. Senior Mark DeVincenzi replaced Wagman after the bunt, but Kelso greeted DeVincenzi with a RBI triple down the right-field line. Joel Ansley was next at the dish and he singled to extend the Cougars lead to 6-2.
Cal Poly tried to rally for runs in the ninth again, but could not push any across. Following back-to-back strikeouts by Houston pitcher Matt Creel, Matt Jensen and Ross Brayton each singled for the Mustangs and an errant throw by Kelso allowed David Van Ostrand to reach base. However, Haniger was unable to come through for Cal Poly as he flied out to left-field to end the game and strand the runners.
The Mustangs have started slow this season after last season’s record year. The Mustangs have now lost three out of four series at Baggett Stadium on the year.
Melker said the team is not used to what’s happened so far this year after last season’s success, but they are going to keep on fighting.
“I know everybody is sick of losing right now,” Melker said. “Guys are going to put it all out there and try to get a win.”
The Mustangs look to salvage the last game of the series against the Cougars as they turn to their ace Mason Radeke tomorrow at 1 p.m. He will be opposed by Houston freshman right-hander Eric Brooks.
Lee said Radeke gives the Mustangs the best opportunity to win when he is the starter.
“Usually whoever we play, we are the better team when Radeke is on the mound,” Lee said. “Hopefully that continues to hold true.”