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One year ago, a defensive miscue in the outfield cost Cal Poly its biggest game of the season — a Saturday night winner’s bracket matchup in an NCAA Regional.
A year later, history repeated itself.
Facing No. 3 Pepperdine in the San Luis Obispo Regional on Saturday night, Cal Poly let a 1-0 lead slip away when junior left fielder Zack Zehner and junior center fielder Jordan Ellis collided chasing a fly ball in left center field, giving the Waves an opportunity to take control of and eventually win the game 2-1.
“There was a lack of communication,” Zehner said. “I called it first and he came in second, and he’s the center fielder so it’s his ball and I didn’t get out of the way.”
Pepperdine second baseman Hutton Moyer followed with a double off the right field wall that tied the game at one apiece and set the stage for the Waves to take the lead.
“I hung a pitch and he made me pay for it,” Cal Poly starting pitcher Casey Bloomquist said. “That’s what happens when you face a good hitter.”
Sophomore John Schuknecht then dropped a flare along the first baseline later in the inning that was scored an error and led to Pepperdine’s winning run.
It was a familiar scene.
At the Los Angeles Regional in 2013, right fielder Nick Torres lost track of a fly ball in the lights, blowing Cal Poly’s 4-1 lead and surrendering all momentum to eventual national champion UCLA, which then cruised to a 6-4 victory.
And just like in the regional matchup last year, Cal Poly’s starting pitcher was on a roll before things imploded in the late innings.
Bloomquist tossed only 38 pitches through four innings and kept Pepperdine’s bats quiet. A year ago in Los Angeles, then-sophomore Matt Imhof retired 15 of the first 16 UCLA batters he faced.
“Casey has been our most consistent pitcher all year,” head coach Larry Lee said. “He showed it again tonight.”
Pepperdine had an ace of its own on the mound Saturday, as junior starting pitcher Aaron Brown — an 11-game winner during the regular season — limited Cal Poly to three hits and one unearned run on 121 pitches.
“He’s a legit guy,” Lee said. “He’s aggressive. He goes at you with a lot of confidence. We stood in there and went toe to toe.”
Cal Poly takes on No. 4 Sacramento State on Sunday at 1 p.m., the winner of which will face Pepperdine at 6 p.m. Cal Poly will need to defeat the Hornets then the Waves twice to advance and earn a Super Regional berth.
That scenario poses problems for Cal Poly’s pitching staff. Freshman right hander Justin Calomeni will toe the rubber against the Hornets on Sunday afternoon, leaving a potential 6 p.m. game in the hands of relatively inexperienced junior Danny Zandona or a recently spotty freshman Slater Lee.
“We’re not equipped to play five games in three days but we’ll deal with it,” Larry Lee said. “You just have to stay positive and get on with it. What’s done is done. Now let’s get onto tomorrow. That’s the only thing we have control of.”