Kali Bills

Brent Morel learned the three Rs playing baseball – but not the ones you might think. Thanks to baseball, the Cal Poly junior third baseman has become reliable, rounded and respected, all key to a successful playing career.

For the Mustangs, who have won four straight and completed their first sweep of the season Sunday against UNLV, Morel boasts a .370 batting average and 51 RBI – both team highs.

“We’re having a lot of guys stepping up,” Morel says.

He’s certainly been one of them.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder also has a team-high four triples and is second in runs (42), doubles (16) and home runs (six).

Recruited by UCLA and USC, among others, the Bakersfield native simply preferred Cal Poly.

“I just liked the atmosphere of San Luis Obispo, the philosophy of the coaching staff, plus it’s a good school,” Morel says.

Although the 21-year-old played shortstop throughout high school, he switched to third base his sophomore year at Cal Poly. He went on to earn an All-Big West Conference honorable mention after hitting .333 in 2007.

“It was just a better fit,” he says.

Cal Poly’s head coach, Larry Lee, knew Morel would be important regardless of where he fit in.

“He’s just all-around good,” Lee says. “He’s a clutch offensive player and a solid defensive player with a strong arm.”

Morel says he enjoys the packed schedule that comes with playing more than 50 games a season.

“I enjoy just being able to play every day,” he says.

In fact, Morel’s baseball idol is Cal Ripken Jr., who holds the Major League Baseball record for most games played in a row.

But the liberal studies major admits the grueling schedule can make it tough to study.

“It can be difficult to balance,” he says. “You’re on the road a lot and play five games a week, so you just hope that your teachers understand.”

Juggling so many responsibilities seems to embody professionalism that Morel intends to carry into a possible MLB career.

“Ideally, I want to continue to have a good year and get drafted at the end of my season – then go start my professional career,” he says.

Lee thinks highly of Morel’s chances.

“He’ll get drafted fairly high and the probability of losing him after this year to professional baseball is pretty good,” he says.

Morel believes the Mustangs, who have been “underachieving,” have to stop playing to the level of their competition to get to the playoffs this year.

“We’re a good team,” he says. “We’ve just been playing well against the good teams and playing poorly against the bad ones. But we have a lot of room to make up.”

Cal Poly (22-23) will visit USC at 7 tonight before traveling to Cal State Fullerton for a three-game Big West series opening at 5:15 p.m. Friday.

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