A regional finalist. The national runner-up. The reigning national champions.
Those three squads will be the first three opponents for Cal Poly Baseball when they open up their season in Scottsdale, Arizona on the weekend of Feb. 14-16.
Cal Poly opens its season against UConn on Valentine’s Day, takes on No. 13 Michigan on Saturday, Feb. 15 and finishes the opening weekend against No. 2 Vanderbilt on Sunday Feb. 16.
Senior center fielder Bradlee Beesley and junior first baseman Tate Samuelson both said they were excited to open the season against teams that made deep runs in last year’s postseason.
“I love travelling and going to play different teams, especially non-conference ones,” Samuelson said. “You never know who you’re going to play. It’s a new non-conference schedule every year. I like to see the talent that is at other schools that’s not on the West Coast.”
Cal Poly’s opening weekend match against Michigan is not the teams’ only encounter of the season, as the Wolverines come to Baggett Stadium Feb. 28-March 1 for a three-game series.
In addition to their opening weekend, the Mustangs are set to take on two other teams ranked in the preseason Top 25.
The Mustangs host No. 24 Oklahoma for a four-game series March 12-15. Cal Poly also hosts No. 17 Stanford for a Wednesday night game March 25.
“Anytime you play against top talent, it’s a lot of fun cause that’s what you’re here for,” Beesley said. “It’s definitely gonna give us a good challenge. I think we’re ready.”
While Beesley and Samuelson said the team is excited to take on good schools, they both noted there’s been no difference in preparations leading up to the start of non-conference play.
“I mean the scouting part is a little bit different,” Samuelson said. “Just cause we don’t have the history on the coaches or the tendencies of the conference teams that we play every year. But otherwise, we go about our business as usual.”
“We know they have big school names on their jerseys — Vanderbilt, UConn or whatever,” Beesley said. “But you can’t let that affect us.”
Beesley added that the team’s mentality came from head coach Larry Lee, who tells them “pressure is perceived.”
“You shouldn’t get amped up against a perceived big time team versus somebody else on a Tuesday,” Lee said. “It’s not how you win championships and that’s not how you get better as a player. You just have to have a high motor and a quiet mind and be aggressively smart.”
The Mustangs’ home opener is Tuesday, Feb. 18 against Pepperdine. Opening pitch inside Baggett Stadium is set for 6 p.m.