tom sanders

After winning its first two games against No. 18 Washington, Cal Poly baseball has lost five of its last six games, including a sweep by Big West foe Cal State Northridge.

Cal Poly (16-13) will try to end the skid with a home series against University of the Pacific (16-8) this weekend. The Mustangs and Tigers will play games Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m. in Baggett Stadium.

Larry Lee’s Mustangs, ranked as high as No. 22 by Baseball America this season, opened the 2006 campaign by sweeping then No. 22 Fresno State in Baggett Stadium. It marked the second straight year that Cal Poly swept Fresno State.

The Mustangs next hit the road for their next nine games and posted 2-1 series wins over San Jose State, Loyola Marymount and San Diego State.

The 9-2 start has been followed by a 7-11 mark over the last five weeks, including a split of last week’s two-game series against Dartmouth College and the three-game sweep by the Matadors in a non-conference series, dropping Cal Poly out of the polls.

Pacific, coached by Ed Sprague, in his third season, has seven position starters, seven pitchers and seven other letter winners back from last year’s 30-28 squad which finished sixth in the Big West with a 9-12 mark.

Sprague, who guided Pacific to its first winning season in six years with a 30-28 mark in 2005, was the starting third baseman on the 1987 and 1988 NCAA Championship teams at Stanford. He collected another championship as he won a Gold Medal with USA Baseball in the 1988 Summer Olympics and enjoyed an 11-year Major League career with Toronto, Pittsburgh, Boston, Oakland, Seattle and San Diego.

The Tigers swept San Diego State last weekend by scores of 7-2, 6-3 and 10-4. Pacific has also won series against Cal, Nevada, UCLA, Santa Clara and swept Brigham Young. Top Tiger hitters to date are right fielder Ramon Glasgow at .365, designated hitter Matt Berezay at .364 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs, center fielder Anthony Jackson at .353 and first baseman Brett Manning at .338.

The Tigers are hitting .268 as a team while the opponents are at .247 and Pacific sports a 3.31 team ERA, third in the Big West Conference.

Cal Poly has beaten Pacific seven of the last eight times and 13 of 18, taking the lead in its series against the Tigers, 26-25. The series began in 1946. Cal Poly is 17-13 in the series since moving to Division I in 1995.

At Stockton a year ago, Cal Poly won two of three games, including a 10-inning, 6-3 triumph in the series finale on April 10. Shortstop Gilbert Gil snapped a 3-3 tie with an RBI single to right field. Larry Lee is 7-2 against Pacific while Ed Sprague is 1-5 against Cal Poly.

Junior catcher Matt Canepa is next at .341 while freshman first baseman/designated hitter Adam Buschini owns a .316 mark after going 4-for-11 against Cal State Northridge. Senior first baseman/right fielder Jimmy Van Ostrand is hitting .296 and leads Cal Poly and the Big West with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs.

Lee, in his fourth season as Mustang mentor with a 117-84-2 career mark, guided Cal Poly in 2005 to a tie for second place in the Big West Conference with Long Beach State, both 14-7 and two games behind 2004 national champion Cal State Fullerton. The Mustangs finished 36-20 overall, but were denied an NCAA Tournament berth.

Cal Poly continues Big West Conference action next weekend (April 7-9) with a three-game series at Cal State Northridge. The Mustangs host UC Irvine on April 13-15.

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