The Cal Poly baseball team improved to 18-2 in home games this season with an 8-7 win over UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Keenan Donath

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After ending up on the wrong side of an 8-6 dogfight in the Friday night series opener vs. UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly looked to even the series in Saturday’s game two. The Mustangs (25-5, 4-1 Big West) followed what has been their recipe for success throughout this season— strong offensive contributions from a loaded lineup and timely pitching to take the game 8-7 from the visiting Gauchos (20-6, 2-3 Big West) on Saturday night at Baggett Stadium.

Starting on the mound for the Mustangs was freshman right-hander Justin Calomeni, who looked good early as he tamed a hot UC Santa Barbara lineup through three scoreless innings to start the game.

Like many Cal Poly victories this season, the offense would do its best to support their starter early. The Mustangs scored five in the first two innings, three of which came from back-to-back RBI doubles hit by sophomore second baseman Mark Mathias and junior center fielder Jordan Ellis in the bottom of the second.

Mathias, who currently leads the team with a .375 batting average, made his first appearance as the Mustangs’ leadoff hitter tonight.

“[Head coach Larry Lee] talked to me before the game and just told me to keep the same approach and to keep on doing what I have been doing … try not to change too much,” Mathias said.

All would change in the top of the 4th inning, when the Gaucho lineup broke out for six runs to knock Calomeni out of the game.

“They put a six spot on us in the fourth and coach Lee brought us together and said we are going to win this game, just stay prepared and score one run at a time,” Mathias said.

An RBI single by senior outfielder Tim Wise gave the Mustangs back the lead in the bottom of the 4th inning, but the lead would not hold, as UC Santa Barbara quickly tied things up in the ensuing half inning.

Both teams failed to score runs in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings, leading to a pressure-packed bottom of the ninth for the Mustang offense. Sophomore first baseman Ryan Drobny led off the inning with a walk and moved up a base after a sacrifice bunt from sophomore shortstop Peter Van Gansen with one out. UC Santa Barbara head coach Andrew Checketts then put in flamethrower Dillon Tate to face senior catcher Chris Hoo — the same pitcher that struck out Hoo for a Gaucho victory in Friday’s thriller.

“When it was 1-0, I was just sitting fastball and he threw a fastball and I got a good pitch to hit,” Hoo said.

That pitch resulted in a single up the middle and a walk-off win for the Mustangs.

“They aren’t our rivals, but this game was important because they are in our conference and a really good team this year,” Lee said. “We are definitely going to see them later in the season.”

Junior reliever Reed Reilly would get the win (1-1) after three strong innings in relief. Mathias, Ellis and sophomore designated hitter Brian Mundell all collected 2 hits and an RBI each.

Sunday’s rubber match against the Gauchos gets underway at 1 p.m. at Baggett Stadium.

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