On a day that was supposed to be filled with celebration, some of the Cal Poly softball players were left in tears. The Mustangs were swept in a pivotal three-game series against rival and first-place UC Davis, dropping a 10-0 decision in five innings Sunday on a blustery afternoon at Bob Janssen Field.
With the loss, the Mustangs (21-23, 10-8 Big West) were officially eliminated from winning the Big West title and will not be receiving an at-large berth into the NCAA regionals. The Aggies remained in first place overall with the sweep, and need to win two games against UC Santa Barbara to clinch the title. This marked the first Big West conference sweep at home that the Mustangs have suffered since April of 2005 against Pacific, which was Condon’s first season with Cal Poly.
Senior first baseman Krysten Cary was very emotional following the loss to the Aggies (25-25, 14-4 Big West). Cary said it was difficult to lose the series the way they did. She said for her and fellow seniors Helen Pena and Sara Kryza, it was not the way they wanted to go out at home.
“It’s hard walking away not really running for the title anymore,” Cary said.
Head coach Jenny Condon said the team is right where it is supposed to be in the conference after not playing well against Davis the past two days.
“At the end of the day, we just didn’t perform and we got beat,” Condon said. “Unfortunately, we got embarrassed today.”
The Aggies jumped out early against Cal Poly starter Anna Cahn by scoring two runs in the top of the first inning. Shortstop Elizabeth Santana and third baseman Jessica Gonzalez opened the game with back-to-back singles. Following a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third, first baseman Sarah Axelson singled to center field to score two runs, but was thrown out at second base after attempting to take second on the throw home.
Cal Poly had a chance to respond in the bottom half of the first, but failed to push any runs across. Designated player Rebecca Patton and Cary both drew walks in the inning, and Cahn singled to center off the glove of center fielder Marissa Araujo to load the bases with one out. Davis starting pitcher Alex Holmes got right fielder Dana Perez to pop out to second and third baseman Kendal Hennings grounded out to shortstop to end the threat. It would be the only threat the Mustangs posed all game.
With the walk in the first inning, Cary became the all-time walks leader in Cal Poly softball history with 88 in her career.
Davis broke open the close game with seven runs in the fourth inning. After retiring the first hitter of the inning, Cahn gave up back-to-back singles to Araujo and second baseman Kelly Harman, and then walked pinch-hitter Rachel Miller on four pitches. With the bases loaded, Santana hit a routine groundball to shortstop which was bobbled by Trista Thomas who was unable to make a play. Then, Cahn hit the next batter to make the score 4-0. That would be the last batter Cahn faced as she gave up seven runs on seven hits while striking out three. Two of the runs were unearned.
Pena came on in relief of Cahn and was unable to stop the bleeding. Holmes greeted Pena with a single off of Pena’s glove that caromed into right field and resulted in two runs for the Aggies to make the score 6-0 at that point. After striking out the next batter she faced, Pena threw a wild pitch that squeaked under the legs of catcher Stephanie Correia to score the seventh run. Then, right fielder Kylie Fan drove an RBI single up the middle and advanced to second on the the throw home. The Aggies added their final run of the inning on an error by second baseman Shea Williams which allowed Fan to score from second. Patton came on to get the final out of the inning, but the damage had already been done.
Holmes was dominant on the mound for the Aggies, allowing only two hits, both singles by Cahn. She pitched 5 innings giving up no runs, while striking out two and walking two. She also added the final run of the game on a double to left-center field to score Santana. The game was called after the bottom of the fifth inning since the Mustangs were trailing by more than eight runs.
Pena said the Mustangs were beat in every facet of the game throughout the series and in this game in particular.
“It’s tough to lose knowing that we could have easily beat that team if we came out strong and with intensity from the first inning to the last,” Pena said. “When you can’t control the ball in the circle and the defense makes some errors and the offense can’t get rolling, it makes it pretty tough to comeback.”
Despite the tough end to the home season, Cary and Pena both said they have plenty of good memories to offset the sting of the final blowout loss.
“Winning conference my freshman and junior year and being a huge part of that was an amazing experience that I’m definitely going to hang on to for a very long time,” Cary said.
The Mustangs still have three more games remaining in their season as they will travel to Pacific next weekend for a three-game set against the Tigers. Condon said she wants to see a focus and drive from her team in the last series no matter what the scoreboard says.
Condon alluded to the fact that this year turned out to be a rebuilding year for the Mustangs and the program has not been in the position that it is now since Condon has been here.
“Today I say it that this year was a rebuilding year and I’ve got to choke that down,” Condon said. “That’s OK because the kids never quit and they still aren’t and we’ve still got three games left and we’re going to fight it out for whatever we can do.”