Bradlee Beesley beats the ball at home for the Mustangs first run of the day. Lauren Pluim Cal Poly Baseball | Courtesy Photo

The Cal Poly baseball team returned home for the first time in 2018 to open play at the recently renovated Robin Baggett Stadium. Though the Mustangs dropped their first game of the series Friday, they were able to bounce back in their two games Saturday.

Friday

The team had a hard time finding their groove during the home opener of 2018, their series against Pacific Friday, March 2 at the newly-renovated stadium.

Strong pitching from the Tigers and sporadic drizzles made it difficult for the Mustangs to drive home many runs.

“We got dominated by their Friday and Sunday pitchers and we just didn’t make good adjustments,” head coach Larry Lee said. “We have to get better approaches at the plate and be able to beat quality pitching.”

Pacific pitcher Shelby Lackey struck out five Mustangs and only allowed one hit in the first seven innings. Lackey retired 20 Mustang hitters in a row, only allowing a single infield hit from junior catcher Nick Meyer in the bottom of the seventh.

The Tigers scored all of their runs in the fourth inning off of junior starting pitcher Michael Clark. The rally began with a single up the middle from shortstop Matthew Tarantino to bring in center fielder James Free II.

Relief pitcher Cam Schneider allowed only one hit while tallying three strikeouts in the last three innings, but it was not enough for the win as Pacific spoiled the Cal Poly home opener, defeating the Mustangs 4-0.

Saturday morning

The Mustangs found their groove at the plate in the second game of the series, finishing with 16 hits. Eight of the nine Cal Poly starters finished with at least one hit.

In the second inning, freshman infielder Tate Samuelson blasted his first collegiate home run to give the Mustangs an early lead.

“[Freshman infielder] Nick DiCarlo, he told me that he had a feeling that I was going to hit a [homerun] that day and I ended up doing it, so I think I owe him pretty big,” Samuelson said.

Shortly after, freshman infielder Dylan Doherty made a double to score sophomore infielder Scott Ogrin and junior center fielder Alex McKenna made another double to drive in Doherty, which put even more distance between the Mustangs and the Tigers.

In the bottom of the third, Myer scored after a double by Samuelson. Samuelson met home plate after a sacrifice fly from freshman pitcher Darren Nelson. Freshman infielder Bradlee Beesley brought in the Mustangs’ sixth run of the game after Ogrin singled to left-center field. A single from Marinconz in the fifth advanced senior outfielder Josh George to third and Doherty to home. Meyer batted in George off of a single for the final run of the game to give the Mustangs a 9-0 win.

Senior left-hander Trent Shelton posted a career-high 10 strikeouts against the Tigers.

Cal Poly’s first shutout of the season also came in their second game with zero errors this season.

Saturday evening

The Mustangs duplicated their nine-run effort from the first game of their double-header in the second game against the Tigers Saturday to win 9-1.

McKenna went 5-for-10 with a home run and batted two players in to home plate and junior shortstop Kyle Marinconz added 4-for-10 hits and two RBIs as well.

Shelton tossed seven scoreless innings, striking out 10 batters and only allowed six hits. Sophomore catcher Myles Emmerson first added to the scoreboard when he drove in Samuelson off of a single to left field.

In the bottom of the third inning, McKenna crushed a solo home run to put the Mustangs up 2-0. The only run for Pacific came when Nate Verlin singled to bring in Bradley Jekich, narrowing the score 4-1.

The Mustangs scored four of their nine runs in the eighth inning on their way to their second win of the series.

Sunday

The last game of the four-game series against University of Pacific seemed promising for the Mustangs as sophomore left-hander Thomas Triantos pitched five scoreless innings and Meyer added a 1-0 lead from a safety squeeze bunt.

However, that all changed when Ryan Schalch, hitting .134, mashed a grand slam off of pitcher Schneider to put the Tigers up 6-1. After three pitching changes and two more allowed runs, freshman left-hander Andrew Alvarez finally secured the third out to end the top of the sixth, leaving the Mustangs down seven runs.

Despite the rocky finish, Triantos threw 52 pitches, 35 of which were strikes, after recovering from a Tommy John surgery a little over a year ago.

“We’re playing better defensively, but … we need to get more production especially at of the lower half of the line-up,” Lee said. “There’s been some quality outings by our pitchers and then some not so quality.”

McKenna, after reaching base from being hit by a pitch, scored off a single from Marinconz in the eighth. Nelson followed by scoring off of a left-field single by McKenna, but it was not enough to secure a third win during the final game of the series.

After splitting the series, Cal Poly moves to 5-7 for the year as Pacific is now 5-8. The Mustangs will head to Omaha, Nebraska this weekend for a four-game series against the Cornhuskers.

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