Credit: Kyle Calzia | Mustang News

Redshirt junior infielder Matt Lopez was unsure if he would have a spot on any team ahead of the 2021 baseball season. After batting .341 over Cal Poly Baseball’s first 40 games, Lopez has found a home in San Luis Obispo.

In 2016, Lopez opted to go the community college route to begin his collegiate baseball career. After two seasons of being named to the All-Big 8 Conference First Team at Sierra College, Lopez transferred to Washington State ahead of the 2020 baseball season.

However, his time was cut short in Washington after a shortened season due to COVID-19. Lopez would enter the transfer portal after the season ended and ultimately chose Cal Poly as his next destination.

“Transferring was weird at first because I was nervous and unsure if I was even going to get picked up at all,” Lopez said. “When I talked to the coaches I just knew I should come here.”

Head Coach Larry Lee expressed his thoughts during the recruitment process of Lopez.

“We looked at his stats and they were great for both years he was at Sierra College,” Lee said. “We knew we needed a bat so he was a good fit for our team here.”

Lopez was unable to join the team until fall 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions and even when he was able to practice with the team, it was in a limited capacity.

“It was weird adjusting because everything was shut down and I had to stay ready by myself,” Lopez said. “Once I got to Cal Poly, I didn’t know more than half of the team after a month of being here because we were practicing in small groups.”

Although it was a slow beginning to his career as a Mustang, Lopez said “it eventually got rolling and it ended up really good.”

“It’s a really fun team to be around and fun to watch,” Lopez said. “We are all bought in and everyone knows what goal we are going for and if you’re not hopping along, you’re gonna get left to the side.”

Despite it being his first year with the team, he hasn’t needed any time to adjust this season, making an immediate impact at the plate in his role as designated hitter.

“As soon as he was inserted into the lineup, he took advantage of his opportunities,” Lee said. “We become more of a stressful lineup for other teams with him at the five spot in the batting order.”

Through 40 games in the 2021 season, Lopez has consistently been one of the best hitters in the Mustang lineup. Lopez currently leads the team with a batting average of .341 to go along with an on base percentage of .455, which lands him 11th and seventh in the Big West Conference, respectively.

Lopez is also second on the team with a slugging percentage of .422 and has recorded 57 total bases on the season, which is good for second on the team.

“I’ve been trusting my approach and sticking to it,” Lopez said. “I’m confident in my swing and I’ve been able to stay in the plate mentally as well.”

When asked about Lopez’s early success, Lee had high praise for the first-year Mustang.

“He’s one of the keys to the success of our offense,” Lee said. “He is a very mature hitter in his thought process and his mental approach. He is not afraid to make adjustments and when he does, there is intelligence behind the decisions he makes as a hitter.”

Lee also spoke about Lopez’s impact on the team and how the Mustangs produce at a much higher level offensively when he is in the lineup.

“We are just trying to stretch our lineup so that he is right in the middle of it,” Lee said. “When your better hitters produce, it takes a lot of pressure off of your role players.”

In the majority of his games as a Mustang, Lopez has hit from either the fourth or fifth spot in the lineup, making him “the RBI guy,” as Lee said.

Lopez has benefited from being in this spot in the order, racking up 26 RBI so far in 2021, which is second on the team. He also stands tied for second on the Cal Poly roster in the hits category with 46.

Although his hot start with his new squad is impressive, Lopez has his sights set on something bigger for his career at Cal Poly.

“I just want to do everything I can to get on base and be a part of us winning as many games as possible,” Lopez said.

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