After a strong start from junior pitcher Kyle Smith (1-2, 8.59 ERA) and an explosive fifth inning from the Mustangs’ offense the Cal Poly baseball team (5-11) defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-9) by a score of 6-1 Monday night in Baggett Stadium with 1,368 in attendance.
The win follows the Mustangs’ 16-1 thrashing of Loyola Marymount Sunday and certainly gives the Mustangs something to build on after their dismal start to the season. The Mustangs played their first 11 games on the road, only winning two of them. Since returning to San Luis Obispo last week, they are 3-2 at home.
“You can see the difference in how they feel from all different aspects, offense, defense, pitching,” Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said. “It’s a good thing to be here. In the past, we have usually played very well at home.”
With two outs in the bottom of the second inning, junior right fielder Colby Barrick drove in the first run of the game for either team. After a walk by third baseman Michael Sanderson, Barrick smoked a stand-up triple down the right field line to drive in Sanderson.
The Mustangs clung to their small lead until the top of the fifth inning when things started to get a little shaky for Smith who threw 81 pitches over four hitless innings while striking out six.
Despite solid numbers from Smith, he also walked and hit three batters before exiting in the top of the fifth inning with the Mustangs narrowly leading 1-0 and runners at first and second with no outs before being relieved by sophomore right-hander Cam Schneider.
Schneider, the first of three relievers the Mustangs used during the night, worked out of the jam by striking out back-to-back Bulldogs and inducing a soft liner to junior first baseman Elijah Skipps for the third out of the inning.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Mustangs’ offense continued to find success against the Bulldogs’ starter, freshman right-hander Casey Legumina (0-3, 9.50 ERA), who gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings in the losing effort to the Mustangs.
After senior designated hitter Kevin Morgan walked, sophomore center fielder Alex McKenna ripped a double to the left-center gap to score Morgan. McKenna has been the most consistent piece of the Mustangs’ otherwise erratic offense this season, as he leads the team with a .373 batting average.
“Honestly, whatever my stats are right now, I haven’t actually hit the ball that well this year, at least to what I think I’m capable of,” McKenna said. “But it just kind of started as a team thing. The last couple of games we’ve been getting the bats going, hitting with runners in scoring position which we haven’t done the whole year.”
Freshman second baseman Bradlee Beesley followed up McKenna’s double with one of his own, scoring McKenna. Sophomore catcher Nick Meyer and Skipps would each single to bring home three more for the Mustangs in the inning, giving them a comfortable 6-0 lead going into the top of the sixth inning.
The Mustangs’ bullpen limited the Bulldogs offense to just four hits and one run through the rest of the game to win consecutive games for the first time this season.
“They[‘ve] see[n] what they are capable of the last couple of days,” Lee said. “Hopefully they have a different mindset going up there. Usually, offense is contagious.”
On the road, the Mustangs are giving up an average of 6.1 runs per game while only managing 2.7 runs per game on offense, but at home they are only giving up 3.8 runs per game while driving in 7.2 runs on average.
The Mustangs continue their 12-game home stand Friday night against Wichita State (8-6) in the first game of a three-game weekend series.