Mustang News File Photo

The Cal Poly baseball team opened its season with a 3-0 win over No. 22 Kansas State in Baggett Stadium on Friday night.

Rafael Salinas

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In Friday night’s home opener, Matt Imhof tied a program Division I record with 14 strikeouts in Cal Poly’s 3-0 victory.

The 6-foot-5 junior pitched seven-plus innings of two-hit baseball and tamed the No. 22 Kansas State offense for the entirety of his tenure on the mound. He was ahead of his hitters early and often, and he never seemed to relinquish his grip on the game.

“I was just trying to go out there and set the tone early with my fastball,” Imhof said. “Once I got into the game, it was just pitching.”

Even in the few counts where Imhof fell behind, he showcased his ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes and keep the hitters off balance. He never allowed a Kansas State runner to pass second base.

“I feel great.” Imhof said. “It’s always great to start your year off with a W.”

The game appeared to be a pitcher’s duel early on as Imhof and Kansas State starter Levi MaVorhis put up zeroes on the scoreboard through five innings.

But a decision by Wildcats manager Brad Hill to pull MaVorhis in the fifth gave the Mustangs the break they needed.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, left fielder Tim Wise led off with a frozen-rope single to center and Jordan Ellis followed with a bunt that found a hole in the defense to put men on first and second.  A balk by reliever Landon Busch advanced the runners and intentional walk to Brian Mundell loaded the bases for senior infielder Jimmy Allen.

Allen connected on a two-strike curveball to drive in the Mustangs’ first two runs of the season.

“With bases loaded and one out I was just looking for a pitch up in the zone,” Allen said. “I got to two strikes — and during this offseason I really worked on my two strike approach — and I got a curveball over the middle of the plate and just drove it up the middle.”

The Mustangs didn’t settle there. Sophomore second baseman Mark Mathias battled through a tough at-bat to draw a bases loaded walk and drive in another run. The Mustangs left the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead.

In the top of the seventh, Imhof struck out the side to bring his strikeout total to 14. That mark broke his previous career high of 12, which he set in 2013 against Cal State Northridge. Imhof blew fastball after fastball by the Wildcats lineup. He surrendered two hits including a groundball to third in the that hit the top of the base and took an uncharacteristic bounce to prevent a diving play by Allen at third.

Imhof’s exit provided little relief for the Wildcats. Junior reliever Reed Reilly came in and peppered the zone with his a mid-90’s fastball.

“When you have Reed Reilly at the end of the game you feel fairly comfortable,” Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said.

“Especially because they’re ranked, it helps our RPI tremendously, winning any game will help, but beating a team that almost made it all the way to Omaha is definitely important,” Allen said. “It’s just about winning games.”

The series continues Saturday night at Baggett Stadium with the first pitch at 6 p.m.

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