The Mustangs tried all series to size up UC Riverside pitcher Marissa Alvidrez. The senior finished the Big West portion of last year’s season with a 2.70 ERA and, at the start of this year’s conference schedule, she is on pace to duplicate that number.
Cal Poly’s offense couldn’t piece it together. In 17 total innings, Alvidrez allowed nine hits and threw two complete game shut outs against Cal Poly. The Mustangs (12-17, 1-2 Big West), who were out hit by the Highlanders 30-14, lost the final game of their three-game conference opening series to UC Riverside (17-19, 2-1), 5-0, Sunday afternoon.
“For us, it was disappointing,” head coach Jenny Condon said. “I think Riverside did a great job; they came to play.”
Right fielder Dana Perez was the lone Mustang to tally multiple hits against Alvidrez. With the exception of shortstop Trista Thomas and centerfielder Whitley Gerhart, no other Mustangs recorded a hit.
“We didn’t get it done on either side of the ball,” Condon said. “We didn’t execute.”
On the mound, reigning Big West Player of the year Anna Cahn struggled. After leading the Big West in ERA through non-conference portion of this season, Cahn struggled to locate against UC Riverside. Cahn didn’t last past the first inning of Saturday’s game, allowing four hits and three earned runs. The ace of the Mustangs rotation struggled in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader as well. Cahn went two innings and allowed five earned runs. In the early portion of Big West play, Cahn’s ERA stands at 21.00.
“It was just rough,” Cahn said. “I wasn’t hitting my spots. I was thinking too much and forcing the ball. I think I did that at the beginning of last conference too.”
But as Cahn struggled, freshman pitcher Rebecca Patton established rhythm.
“Rebecca warmed up (early in the game) and we went with Anha on a short hook,” Condon said. “She didn’t have her stuff today, so we had to pull her out early. Rebecca was ready to go.”
Patton, a freshman from Northridge, took the rubber midway through the first inning with two runners on base, but got out of the jam unscathed. She went on to finish the game and pitch 6 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs.
“I thought (Patton) did a great job,” Condon said. “She was really composed, she stepped in and she shut it down when we needed her to … I was really impressed with how she pitched all weekend long.”
Patton recorded 1-4 record in the non-conference schedule. She held and ERA of 4.61 and held opposing batters to a .323 batting average. That wasn’t the case this weekend. Against UC Riverside, those numbers turned around. Patton pitched 13.1 innings this weekend, she recorded one win and now holds an ERA of 2.10. No to mention, she held batters to a .208 batting average.
“I feel like I did pretty well,” Patton said. “The experience I have been getting in every game has helped me get better.”
Patton started the second game of Friday’s double header as well. Behind the young pitcher, the Mustangs held the advantage early. After the Highlanders went down in order in the top of the first inning, senior first-baseman Krysten Cary led the bottom half off with a single up the middle. Left-fielder Nora Sobczack, who leads the team with 27 hits, followed suit with a single off an 0-2 fastball through the left side. With runners on first and second and two outs, second-baseman Capri Ruiz hit an RBI single down the right-field line scoring Cary for the first run of the game.
In the top of the fourth, UC Riverside left-fielder Ariel Shore led off with a walk. The next batter, shortstop Kameron Hebenton, jumped on a 3-2 fastball hitting a triple to right-center that sent Shore off to the races scoring all the way from first. After two pop-up outs, first-basemen Brittany Keeney’s single to left drove in the go-ahead run for the Highlanders.
After four innings, Cal Poly had a 3-2 lead. Aided by their young-gun, the Mustangs held on for the rest of the game.
In the first game of Friday’s double header, the Highlanders chased Cahn and broke the game open with six runs in the top of the third inning. Thomas led off the inning with a double to center and Alvidrez drove Thomas home with an RBI single to right. Following another single, Alexis Pickett doubled to left-center field to drive in the third run for Riverside. After a sacrifice fly to left, Riverside tallied three more times with two singles and a walk with the bases loaded to make the score 7-0 after three innings.
The Highlanders added three more runs in the top of seventh for the final margin of victory, 10-0. The big blow in the frame came off the bat of Keeney who tripled to right-center and drove in two runs. All three runs in the inning were unearned as the Mustangs committed two errors in the frame.
While Cal Poly is off to its worst start in conference under Condon, the conference schedule is still young.
“You never want to open up conference – at home – one and two,” Condon said. “But there are a lot of games left and we will regroup from this and get back after it on Tuesday.”
Last year, Mustangs drew the same result in their opening series. Against Cal State Fullerton the Mustangs dropped two of three games, but then went on to win 14 straight conference games. Although Cal Poly was not shut out twice in last year’s opening series, they are not holding their heads down just yet.
“I’m really excited,” Patton said. “I know that, even though we struggle, the team will always come together. We’ll pull through.”
Cal Poly will take the field again next weekend in a conference series against UC Santa Barbara.
— Patrick Leiva and Anthony Pannone contributed to this post.