By Jesse Summers
[follow id = “CPMustangSports”]
Despite trailing by as many as five runs after Hawaii’s fifth-inning hit parade, the Mustangs stopped the bleeding with a timely three-run home run by junior designated hitter Brian Mundell, which ignited a seven-run turnaround and helped Cal Poly to a 7-5 home victory on Friday night.
Mundell, who started off the season battling a hamstring injury, now leads his team in batting average (.355) and is tied for a team-high in home runs with five. Hitting near the top of the lineup, his late efforts have been a spark for the Mustangs in recent games.
“He’s done well these last few weeks,” head coach Larry Lee said. “We need those first three hitters to be our catalysts, and if they do what they are capable of doing, then everybody else seems to fit in and be a part of the equation offensively.”
“I’ve been staying short and seeing the ball pretty deep,” Mundell said. “I widened out my stance and I know I just need to get the barrel to the ball. That’s been my main goal these past couple of weeks, and it seems to be working.”
Mundell’s shot to center field in the fifth could not have come at a better time for Cal Poly (12-18, 2-2 Big West Conference). Junior starting pitcher Casey Bloomquist was hit hard by the Rainbow Warriors in the previous few innings, where he allowed five runs on 11 hits. Though not one of Bloomquist’s most efficient starts, senior Taylor Chris and senior Danny Zandona put up four combined scoreless innings and allowed a single hit in relief.
“Tonight, we really didn’t show up in any of our facets of the game for the first half, but we put together a solid fifth and sixth inning, and Chris and Zandona came out and shut them out,” Lee said.
Senior left fielder Zack Zehner also provided pop for Cal Poly’s offense. He shares a tie of team lead in home runs and went 2-for-4 at the plate on Friday night.
Despite being outhit 12-7, the Mustangs’ comeback took only two innings to complete.
In the sixth inning, Cal Poly strung together four runs as junior right fielder Ryan Drobny smacked a two-run double down the right field line to knot the score at five before junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen’s single broke the deadlock. Mundell hit a sacrifice fly later in the frame to give the Mustangs their final two-run advantage.
“We got back in the game by trusting each other,” Mundell said. “The hitters were picking up the pitchers, and then the pitchers were picking up the hitters. It’s important for us because when our team clicks on all cylinders, we can beat anyone.”
Friday’s game was the first of a three-game series that will carry out through the weekend. Now 2-2 in conference play, the remaining games in the series, as well as the entire season, are critical in order for the Mustangs to compete for a second Big West championship.
“We can’t afford to lose too many ball games in conference, and tonight was important to get off to a good start,” Lee said. “Now comes (Saturday), then comes Sunday and we just need to keep playing to our capabilities, and when we do, we have a chance at being successful.”
At the forefront of the Mustangs’ quest for repeat, Lee may have been the most important source of inspiration in Friday’s comeback victory, according to Zehner.
“Coach just pulled us aside, and said, ‘Hey, if we want to keep the season alive and keep it meaning something, we’ll have to gear up and take care of business,’” Zehner said. “It’s huge to get this win in front of our Friday night home crowd. We need to keep winning ball games to stay relevant in the conference.”
The Mustangs will continue the series against Hawaii (12-21, 3-4) on Saturday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.