Houston’s Blake Kelso stepped into the batter’s box as the first batter of the game. As Sophomore pitcher Mason Radeke finished his pre-game throws, Kelso dug his cleats into the dirt, took a couple practice swings and stared to the mound.
Radeke (3-1) had been undefeated before today’s ball game and had been tagged as arguably the best pitcher in the Mustangs’ rotation. That didn’t phase Kelso; it didn’t take long for him to find a Radeke-branded fastball he liked.
On the second pitch of the game, Kelso belted a solo home run to right center field. The home run gave the Cougars an unassailable lead.
“It happens,” Radeke said.
Cal Poly (6-9), fell to Houston (8-5), 5-3, in the final game of a three-game non-conference series in Baggett Stadium Sunday afternoon.
“Definitely wasn’t my best showing,” said Radeke, rolling of a 13-3 win on Tuesday. “I was tired. My command wasn’t there.”
The loss marked the final game of a three-game sweep by the Cougars. The Cougars defeated the Mustangs, who were swept home for the first time since a series against Long Beach State two seasons ago, 6-2 on Saturday and 5-3 on Friday.
“We are not in a good place right now,” head coach Larry Lee said. “We just lack that confidence to be able to compete.”
Playing in the shadow of last year’s record-breaking season, Cal Poly has yet to yield a winning record. In an early season bombarded with talk about the lack of strength on the mound, this game was different.
“It was just hitting,” Center fielder Adam Melker said. “Pitching wasn’t a problem today at all. We just didn’t get the timely hits that we needed.”
Cal Poly was out hit by the Cougars 9-6. Houston’s starting pitcher Eric Brooks threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed two earned runs.
“They attacked us,” Radeke said. “They threw a lot of breaking pitches and they came up with the win.”
Radeke threw 97 pitches in six innings of work. Although he allowed only three runs, he didn’t throw his team under the bus for a lack of offensive firepower.
“The offense is trying as hard as they can,” Radeke said. “I have complete faith in every one of our hitters.”
To pair with being outhit on Sunday, the Mustangs were out hit 25-21 in the first two games of the series.
“Offense is contagious,” Lee said. “And we haven’t been able to put a lot of offense together.”
“We leave a lot of base runners, we don’t get too many lead-off guys on and it’s tough to score runs that way,” Melker said.
For the Mustangs, Melker has been one of the few run producers. Melker had hit in 13-consecutive ball games heading into Sunday’s contest.
“I have in those games, but in no means would I say that I am at where I would like to be,” Melker said.
That streak ended with an 0-4 performance today.
After the lone-score in the first inning, the Kelso home run, Houston added another run in the second.
Cal Poly didn’t respond until In the fourth second baseman Matt Jensen hit a home run to left-center, but the Cougars responded with an RBI single to shallow center in the fifth.
In the seventh, the Cougars posted a two-run effort.
In the bottom half of the inning, Bobby Crocker hit an RBI ground-out to first with runners at second and third. During the next at-bat, Elliot Stewart stole home on a wild-pitch.
The Mustangs would not score for the rest of the game.
Cal Poly was led offensively by Mitch Haniger, who went 2-for-3. Jensen and Crocker were the only Mustangs to record RBIs.
“It’s hard,” Lee said. “But you just have to put each game behind you and look towards the future.”
After finishing up a five-game week, the Mustangs will host California in a non-conference three-game series next weekend.
“(We have to) get away from the field for a couple of days,” Lee said. “Get the mind of of baseball and we’ll get back to baseball later on in the week.”