No lead is safe with the Cal Poly baseball team.
The Mustangs (9-21, 2-4 Big West) held a two-run lead going into the seventh inning against UC Santa Barbara (14-12, 2-1), but first-time starter Eugene Wright ran out of gas and the bullpen imploded. Despite allowing one run and four hits through six innings on a blustery Sunday afternoon, Cal Poly gave up seven runs in the seventh en route to a 10-3 loss at Baggett Stadium.
“I just got tired, lost control — not mental control — but I couldn’t spot up as well, started missing pitches,” said Wright, who allowed six earned runs on seven hits through 6 1/3. “Going into the seventh, I was getting tired. I just said f*** it, lets go after them and see what happens.”
When head coach Larry Lee was asked if the team is confident that it can maintain leads in late innings, he simply replied, “No.” History indicates differently, Lee said. Cal Poly is 1-16 when trailing after the seventh inning.
“We’re so far along in the season that we’ve seen the results,” he added. “We’ve gotten better in certain situations but as a whole, we are not good enough to consistently close out games.”
Lee said the team lacks a quality and deep pitching staff that usually translates to a loss on the last game of a series.
The Mustangs couldn’t stop the bleeding in the seventh inning. As Wright pitch count neared 100, his location suffered, which meant getting behind in counts. The inning began with a leadoff walk, immediately followed by a double and RBI ground out. With the lead narrowed to 3-2, the defense shifted in only to get a closer look at Ryan Tregoning’s game-tying single. After Wright plunked the next batter, Gunnar Terhune roped a two-run double past left fielder Luke Yoder. With four runs in, reliever Jeff Johnson came in with one out and a runner on second.
“We had one bad inning,” Lee said. “Eugene gave us six good innings; conditions were definitely geared toward the pitching end of it, it’s very surprising that we gave up 10 runs … We needed to put a stop to it and make it a four-run inning instead of a seven-run inning.”
Johnson retired the first batter he faced in three pitches. He didn’t retire another batter as the Gauchos mounted a two-out rally. Johnson hit the next batter, gave up an RBI single and walked the last batter he faced before Frankie Reed came in relief with the bases loaded. Reed gave up a two-RBI single to Mark Haddow, to make the score 8-3. UCSB starter Jesse Meaux (5-1) had a commanding performance, throwing a three-run complete game. Yoder described the team’s recent play as disheartening.
“We are not trying to put the weight of losing our shoulders so we don’t throw in the towel,” he said. “We still have 20 or so games left.”
In the first game of the series, Yoder took some of the weight off the team’s shoulders with 10th-inning heroics. He drove in the winning run the bottom of the inning and was met by swarming teammates as he rounded first base. The win went to Jeff Johnson who pitched 3 1/3 innings and struck out seven for his second victory on the season, despite blowing a save.
Johnson allowed a game-tying single in the ninth to deny another decision from Cal Poly’s most consistent starter, Matt Leonard. Leonard allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He has allowed two earned runs over the last three weeks and has given up just three walks in 31 innings.
In Saturday’s contest, the Gauchos answered by mustering a game-winning run in the top of the ninth inning, after a see-saw 10-9 win.
Cal Poly will embark on a six-game road trip, starting with Cal State Northridge on Friday.