Cal Poly avoided being swept by Cal State Fullerton with a decisive 7-4 victory Sunday afternoon.
This series was immensely important for both the Mustangs and the Titans, who are battling for the top spot in the Big West Conference as well as playoff berths. As of last Tuesday the teams were tied for second in the Big West Conference with records of 32-12.
The Titans clinched the pivotal series with 8-4 and 7-3 victories over the Mustangs on Friday and Saturday nights. However, the Mustangs were focused and energized on Sunday, playing in front of a crowd of 1,778 at Baggett Stadium.
“It’s easy to lose your confidence when you’re playing great teams,” head coach Larry Lee said. “Fullerton doesn’t lose many ballgames during the course of they year. They can easily win 16 straight against anyone in the country. Our guys need to know that and be proud of what they accomplished today.”
Picking up the win on the mound for Cal Poly was freshman right-hander Mason Radeke. Radeke (5-1) had a long outing, battling through 130 pitches in eight innings. Lee said that it was the longest he had ever kept the freshman in.
The hard-earned innings brought positive results. The Titans scattered nine hits against Radeke on the day, tallying four earned runs. Radeke struck out five batters as well.
“I feel great,” Radeke said after the game. “I’ve got a little rubber arm and I’m tired, mainly because this game was mentally exhausting.”
The Titans got off to a quick start at the top of the first inning with a double to right-center from sophomore shortstop Christian Colon. After stealing third base, Colon scored on a groundout to second base, which was hit by junior center fielder Josh Fellhauer.
The Mustangs, who faced freshman starting pitcher Tyler Pill, tied up the game in their first appearance at the plate. Junior right fielder Adam Melker hit a lead-off single to right-center. Melker subsequently stole second, tagged up to third on a Ryan Lee sacrifice fly and advanced home on a passed ball.
The Mustangs increased their lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning. Junior shortstop Kyle Smith drove in junior left fielder Luke Yoder and sophomore designated hitter D.J. Gentile with a double down the left field line. Smith scored on a ground out by freshman outfielder Bobby Crocker, who was pinch hitting for freshman catcher Jordan Hadlock.
Junior first-baseman Wes Dorrell had a big game for the Mustangs. In the bottom of the third inning, Dorrell hit a triple to right-center field. He attempted to turn it into an inside-the-park home run, but was barely thrown out at home plate. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Dorrell hit a solo bomb to right field, increasing the Mustangs’ lead to 5-2.
Dorrell hit a crucial double to left center in the bottom of a seventh inning that added two more runs to the Mustangs’ lead. Dorrell ended up going 3-4 on the day and was a single shy of batting for the cycle. He improved his batting average to .340 this year.
“Today we had every facet working for us,” Dorrell said after the game. “We had pitching, defense. We hit well today and that’s huge especially this late in the season.”
Junior shortstop Kyle Smith added three hits and drove in three for Cal Poly.
The Mustangs are now in third place in the Big West behind the Titans and UC Irvine, with a record of 33-15, and 11-7 in the Big West. They travel to Pepperdine Tuesday night.
“To pick up today’s win was real good for us and I think it will really help our self confidence,” Lee said. “It’s such a grind, playing 56 games, and with so many games you don’t want to get too high or too low, you just want to stay even keel.”