Ask just about any softball coach about the key to winning games and they’ll tell you in one word: pitching.
After Cal Poly pitcher Emily Hively improved her record to 8-0 with a shutout performance against Long Beach State on Saturday, Cal Poly head coach Jenny Condon was all smiles.
The 3-0 win at Bob Janssen Field clinched a sweep of the three-game series for the host Mustangs, who stayed tied atop the Big West Conference standings with Cal State Fullerton. It also marked the first time that Cal Poly has taken all three games from Long Beach since transitioning to Division I in 1995.
Despite Long Beach State’s eight hits, Hively was able to pitch the Mustangs (30-9, 6-0 Big West) out of all jams, forcing batters to make weak hits that the defense was able to take care of.
“They definitely hit well,” Hively, a senior right-hander, said of the 49ers (18-20, 2-4). “But we shut them out, so that just shows that our defense was really solid.”
Senior center fielder Lisa Modglin extended her career hits record at Cal Poly by starting the game off with her fifth triple of the season. Melissa Pura followed a batter later with a single to left field to bring Modglin home.
After experiencing Modglin’s power firsthand, Long Beach State intentionally walked her in two later at-bats.
“People respect her as a hitter,” Condon said. “Their strategy is, ‘Don’t let her beat you.’ And if they shut her down, then they’re forcing our other eight batters to come up with the big plays and that’s OK.”
For the Mustangs, it was more than OK in the fifth inning. Cristen Lee led off with a hard single up the middle. After Krysten Cary walked, Jenna Maiden sliced a line drive that skipped past the left fielder, allowing both runners to score. Even with a .349 batting average, Maiden is only third best on the team. Modglin leads at .504 and Jackie Gehrke-Jones follows at .396.
Cal Poly’s defense was tested in the sixth inning after Long Beach State loaded the bases on three consecutive singles with one out. But Hively pulled the Mustangs out of the jam, forcing batter Janelle Zuniga to swing at an 0-2 pitch, which she hit weakly back to Hively. The Mustangs quickly turned a home-to-first double play to end the inning.
Cal Poly has allowed just three earned runs in its last 48 2/3 innings.
On Friday, the Mustangs took the doubleheader from the 49ers with 3-1 and 6-1 wins. In the first game, Cal Poly scored all three runs in the third frame off a fielder’s choice and back-to-back singles by Stephanie Tam and Kelly Comstock.
Junior pitcher Robyn Kontra held Long Beach State to four hits and lowered her ERA to 1.65.
In the second game, Cary set the tone with a two-run home run in the first inning. Sarah Iwata followed in the third with a two-run double to left that scored Maiden.
After the 49ers scored their only run in the fourth, Cal Poly returned in the bottom half of the inning with two more runs – one on a bases-loaded walk and the other on a sacrifice fly.
Leading 5-1 in the sixth, Comstock singled to right field, scoring Gehrke-Jones from third. Comstock, who batted ninth, finished the game 5 for 6.
The Mustangs will travel to Cal State Northridge for a doubleheader Saturday to face their former coach and teammate Roni Sparrey, who is now an assistant coach for the Matadors (13-16-1, 1-5).
Jennifer Hall contributed to this report.