The 2010 Cal Poly baseball team experienced a roller coaster ride of highs and lows throughout their 2010 season.
The bar was set high after last season’s team produced the first regional bid in program history. Instead, the Mustangs struggled out of the gates going 10-27 in their first 37 games of the season, including a 4-21 stretch after being 6-6. In the final month of the year, the Mustangs were able finish strong by winning 13 of their last 18 games to conclude their season with a record of 23-32.
Senior outfielder Luke Yoder said the best word to describe the struggles was ‘frustration.’
“It was really frustrating because we put so much hard work in the fall, waking up and going to weights early and working hard at practice, so I definitely think that would be the word to sum it up best because we weren’t reaping the rewards of all our effort and hard work prior to the season,” Yoder said.
Looking back on the season, head coach Larry Lee said the team fell short in many different areas, but especially on the mound. He said injuries to starters Steven Fischback and Mason Radeke really hurt their pitching depth.
“Those are two high-end pitchers that give you a chance to beat anybody,” Lee said. “When you aren’t at full strength pitching-wise, it’s really difficult at this level to think that you are going to be able to outscore everyone.”
Lee said the team had to piece together their pitching staff by having bullpen pitchers come in as starters. Also, Lee said the offense struggled out of the gates, which put even more pressure on their pitchers.
“It was disappointing the way we started out because we thought we had the ingredients to put together another good season and it just didn’t work out that way,” Lee said. “I thought we should’ve been much better offensively, and it was just an instance of players not able to step up right away and become leaders from an offensive standpoint.”
Following the disappointments of the early season, the Mustangs were able to rebound down the stretch. Yoder, who led the Mustangs with 15 home runs this season, said the team turned things around when they hosted Long Beach State for a weekend series at the beginning of May. He said the team wanted to go at least 10-9 in order to reach 20 wins for the year.
With that goal in mind, the Mustangs responded by going 13-5 in the month of May. Yoder said the team turned things around because they never gave up on the season.
“It’s perseverance by not letting the way the season started out for us put a damper on things,” Yoder said. “We just set that goal for ourselves and came out to practice and continued to work hard and get better each day.”
At the end of the season, the Mustangs were on a tear offensively. Lee said offense is contagious and that happened with his team at the end of the year. The Mustangs hit .351 over their last 19 games and scored almost 10 runs per game. In contrast, they were only hitting .277 and were scoring only six runs per game over their first 36 games.
The offensive surge to end the year was highlighted during the final game of the season. The Mustangs exploded for a school record 32 hits, including a record nine doubles, in a 25-8 rout of visiting Cal State Bakersfield. Lee said the turnaround occurred because the Mustangs received solid pitching, good defense and timely hitting at the plate.
“We just pitched much better for the most part and had a much better plan of attack,” Lee said. “Over the course of the year, they’ve learned and gotten better and played competitive games lately.”
Pitcher Matt Leonard, who was arguably the team’s best pitcher over the year despite his 2-7 record, said the team’s play over the final month of the season will be a good building block for next season.
“It just shows what we are capable of, and it gives us momentum going into next year, ” Leonard said.
Despite the late-season surge, Yoder said the season was still difficult because they could have been better throughout the entire year.
“It is kind of heartbreaking seeing that we’ve played so well here lately and really wish that we would’ve been able to play this well throughout the whole season, but it’s the game of baseball,” Yoder said.
Looking ahead to next season, Lee said many players were able to gain valuable playing experience this season, which will help for the future.
“We’ve gotten a lot of experience for some players that due to injury probably wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity,” Lee said. “It will definitely help us going into next year knowing what to expect from some of our role players.”
Lee said the Mustangs are adding a strong recruiting class and wants his returning players to understand their deficiencies so they can improve for next season and create more internal competition within the program.
“The incoming players need to close the gap from where they are now to where they need to be at by the first day of school so they can come in and compete for playing time,” Lee said. “The one advantage that the players in the program already have is that they’ve been through the instruction and the game experience for at least one year.”
Also, he said it would be helpful to have everyone return healthy from injury this season.
“If (Steven) Fischback and (Mason) Radeke could recover to their past levels, then that’s a great start because quality pitching hides any weaknesses or deficiencies that you might have,” Lee said. “Offense is usually up and down during the course of the year, and we are going to lose some pretty good offensive players, but we should return enough offense to be competitive on that end.”
Being one of six seniors who will not be around next year, Yoder said the seniors wanted to leave a stamp on the program of hard work and determination. He said the team next year will be talented and capable of contending for the Big West title and another NCAA regional berth.
“They definitely have the tools and capabilities to be able to go and succeed and have a good year next year,” Yoder said. “It’s going to depend on how much work they put in and not let tough times get down on them and try and succeed as much as possible.”