Despite a late three-run push in the seventh inning, the Mustangs fell 4-3 to the Long Beach State Dirtbags on Friday night in Baggett Stadium. Cal Poly (16-9, 0-1) cut the Long Beach State (9-15, 1-0) lead to one using groundout RBIs from Miller and pinch hitter Matt Russell and a solo home run by center fielder Mitch Haniger but fell short in the first game of the weekend series.
Joey Wagman took the loss after going seven innings, giving up seven hits and four runs, just one earned, with seven strikeouts.
Miller singled to center in the bottom of the first to extend his hit streak to thirteen games.
“I’m just trying to have good at-bats at the top of the line-up,” he said. “Trying to set the table for the middle of the line-up, just trying to put some barrel on it, and right now, it’s just falling.”
In the first, true freshman Alex Michaels followed with another single moving Miller to third base but was tagged out at second in an attempt to stretch the single to a double.
Dirtbags starter Matt Anderson, walked Haniger to put runners on first and third. Third baseman Jimmy Allen struck out on a failed hit and run, stranding Haniger and eventually led to Miller being thrown out at home.
“(Miller) got caught off too far on the hit and run,” Lee said. “He didn’t get a good jump and was caught out in no man’s land.”
In the top of the second, Long Beach State’s Jeff Yamaguchi and Johnny Bekakis hit back-to-back doubles to give the Dirtbags a 1-0 lead.
Cal Poly found itself with bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the second. Miller lined a ball down the third base line, but a smooth play by Dirtbags third baseman Juan Avila ended the inning leaving three runners stranded.
“That’s just one of two great plays” Lee said. “One was a great play, and the other, we didn’t get a great read on.”
Lee was not phased by the runners left on base. He acknowledged that not everything went Cal Poly’s way but remained optimistic about the next two games in the series.
“We are creating opportunities offensively to hit with runners in scoring position,” Lee said. “It’s up to your hitters then to put a good swing on it and drive in the runs.”
The fourth, fifth and sixth innings were scoreless due to the crafty pitching Wagman and Anderson.
In the seventh, Long Beach State’s second baseman Jeff McNeil led off with a single to left. A throwing error followed by a home run by center fielder Brian Metzger gave the Dirtbags a 4-0 lead. The home run clipped the top of the fence and cleared it as Metzger rounded first base.
Cal Poly answered with a three-run seventh inning. Redshirt freshman first baseman Tommy Pluschkell continued his hot streak as he drove a single to left to start the rally. Evan Busby was walked and a passed ball moved Pluschkell and Busby to second and third.
Miller and pinch hitter Matt Russell hit back-to-back groundouts to shortstop Matt Duffy to drive in Pluschkell and Busby.
With no runners on Mitch Haniger drove a ball to left for a solo home run that almost identical to Metzger’s, clipping the fence and going out. Haniger has six long balls on the season, which equals his team-leading total from 2011.
Redshirt freshman Reed Reilly closed out the eighth and ninth innings giving up no earned runs, striking out three.
“I was just trying to make my pitches,” he said. “I wanted to keep the defense ready and keep us in the game too. Wagman did a great job through his seven innings keeping us in the game.”
In the ninth pinch hitter Tim Wise drove a single up the middle. Miller followed with a single to left. Matt Russell laid a bunt down to third that was fielded cleanly by Avila who threw the Wise out at third.
With two on Haniger and Allen both flew out to end the game.
The second game of the three game series will feature Cal Poly’s Kyle Anderson facing off against Long Beach State’s Ryan Strufing on Saturday night at 6 p.m.