Overcoming a sluggish start, the Cal Poly baseball team was proficient at the back end of the game in every aspect Sunday afternoon at Baggett Stadium. While that doesn’t sound like an ideal strategy, it enabled the Mustangs to defeat Pacific 8-5 and come away with a 2-1 series victory.

After dropping the first game and facing a 4-1 deficit Saturday, the Mustangs outscored the Tigers 17-5 over the final 14 innings of the series.

Cal Poly (13-18, 3-6 Big West Conference) received major contributions from the bullpen and the bottom half of its lineup in the finale.

Junior left-hander Jared Eskew (2-1) picked up the win while allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings of relief, allowing the Mustangs to rally from a three-run deficit for the second day in a row.

“The coaches have had us focus on not feeling that perceived pressure when we take the mound,” Eskew said. “I just relaxed, had fun, threw strikes and trusted my defense. That’s why there are eight guys out there.”

The Tigers (8-24, 2-7 Big West) jumped out to a two-run advantage in the first inning off of Steven Fischback, in part due to a two-out throwing error by second baseman Pat Pezet.

Fischback was never able to consistently throw strikes and could not get out of the fourth after using 67 pitches to get through three innings.

“Esky gave us just what we needed, just like Brian Grening did yesterday,” Mustangs head coach Larry Lee said. “Our bullpen has been getting better. Certain guys are really stepping up, giving us a lot of quality innings – not just a few outs. They’re really extending themselves, which has been good.”

Cal Poly had to feel good about only trailing 3-0 entering the fifth, considering it could have been much worse if not for some fantastic defensive plays.

First baseman Wes Dorrell made an overhead snag on a bad hop with two outs and the bases loaded in the second, and left fielder Adam Melker saved another run in the third when he nearly knocked himself out making a catch just before crashing into the wall.

“It was slicing and kept carrying,” said Melker, who escaped with a headache and small laceration on his chin. “I just tried to stay with the ball and not worry about the wall, and that wall came pretty quick.”

The comeback started with Pacific starter Joey Centanni seemingly cruising, having only allowed three hits and needing only three pitches to get the first two outs in the fifth. With nobody on, the No. 5 hitter, Ryan Lee, banged a double down the left-field line.

Dorrell and shortstop Kyle Smith both followed with doubles, and just like that, the score was 3-2. The fifth-through-eighth hitters in the Mustangs lineup combined to go 9 for 15 with four runs and six RBI, and Dorrell finished 2 for 4, with two doubles and a sac fly resulting in three RBI and two runs.

“The first couple at-bats I was trying to do too much,” Dorrell said. “I had some situational at-bats the next few times and was able to get some barrels on it.”

Centanni was able to finish the inning but did not return for the sixth, and that spelled trouble for Pacific. Cal Poly was able to score five more times off the bullpen, tying the affair 5-5 in the seventh before tallying the decisive three runs in the eighth.

“Our goal was to get to the bullpen as early as possible,” Lee said. “It took us a while – Centanni kept us off balance, but we finally got to him in the fifth and we knew that was key.”

In the pivotal eighth frame, the Mustangs used two sac flies by Dorrell and Smith after four singles in a row. During the series, the Tigers relievers allowed 13 runs compared to four for the Mustangs.

The series victory was the ninth consecutive for Cal Poly over Pacific, but its first in three Big West tries on the year. The Mustangs have won four of five contests overall and have two more home games this week before resuming Big West play this weekend when they travel to UC Davis.

Cal Poly will face Fresno State for the fifth time this season at 6 p.m. Tuesday; the teams have split their first four meetings.

The Mustangs, who follow that up with an afternoon, home match-up with Loyola Marymount at 3 p.m. Wednesday, could struggle to find pitching over the next week if junior southpaw Derrick Saito can’t rebound from shoulder soreness that caused him to leave Saturday’s game after only one inning.

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