Matthew Lalanne | Mustang News

With February halfway finished, Cal Poly spring sports teams are taking to their respective fields to start the season. Here’s what to look out for from the Mustangs this spring:

Baseball
2016 record: 32-25 (12-12), fourth in Big West Conference

The Mustangs had a relatively successful season last year, finishing with a winning record for the fifth time in the past six seasons. Six players made it to an All-Conference team: junior utility Brett Barbier (First Team), freshman catcher Nick Meyer (Second Team), junior third baseman Michael Sanderson (Second Team), junior pitcher Justin Calomeni (Second Team), freshman second baseman Kyle Marinconz (Honorable Mention) and senior outfielder John Schuknecht (Honorable Mention). Meyer also took home the Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year award.

This season, head coach Larry Lee leads a team loaded with young talent. Barbier and Schuknecht were drafted into the professional leagues, but Meyer and Marinconz, now sophomores, will step into their roles on offense. All three starting pitchers from last season — juniors Jarred Zill, Kyle Smith, and Erich Uelmen — return for another year on the mound.

Despite their young and improving talent, the Mustangs were picked to finish fourth in conference in a coaches poll before the season. The Big West has two teams, Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara, ranked in the top 25 nationally, and defending runner-up Long Beach State is always a tough opponent. But with the pitching group more experienced than last season and Meyer and Marinconz stepping up, this team could be one of the better teams Lee has coached in the past five years.

Softball
2016 record: 27-23 (10-11), fifth in Big West Conference

Last season was the breakout year for junior pitcher Sierra Hyland in the circle. She finished eighth in the country in ERA (1.19) and led the team with 29 RBI. After missing time due to injury, she’s back and surrounded by a team with talent at multiple positions and the most successful head coach in Cal Poly softball history, Jenny Condon.

Graphic by Ayrton Ostly

Hyland wasted no time in starting strong: During the team’s first weekend she threw a no-hitter and a perfect game. With her starting in the circle, Condon’s team can rely on a bevy of talented hitters: junior utility Stephanie Heyward (2016 Big West All-Conference First Team), junior outfielder Amanda Sandoval, senior infielder Ashley Tornio and junior infielder Chelsea Convissar. Junior pitcher Lindsey Chalmers (2016 Big West All-Conference Honorable Mention) can also spell Hyland in the circle without much drop-off in production.

The Mustangs were also picked to finish fourth by the Big West coaches, but if Hyland continues her early-season form and stays healthy, this team will have a shot at Condon’s third Big West title.

Men’s golf
2016 finish: Second in Big West Conference Championship

Last season ended close to glory for the Mustangs as they finished just three strokes behind winner UC Riverside in the Big West Championships. Junior Cole Nygren was also barely edged out for the individual championship, losing to UC Santa Barbara’s Brandon Bauman by one stroke.
This season, Nygren and fellow 2016 First Team All-Big West Conference selection Justin De Los Santos come back for their senior seasons. With junior Jesse Yap, there are three upperclassmen conference team selections leading the Mustangs this spring.

After coming so close in both individual and team competitions, the Mustangs will again contend for the Big West title come May. Until then, Nygren, De Los Santos, Yap and the rest of the team will continue their good performance from the season so far. The fall portion of the season included a pair of top-five team finishes and the team finished third on Tuesday’s Pro Compression Invitational in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Women’s golf
2016 finish: Second in Big West Conference Championship

Similar to the men’s team, the women were narrowly edged out by UC Riverside for the Big West Championship. Despite having more top-10 finishers (three) than the Highlanders, the Mustangs lost on the final day by blowing a three-stroke lead to finish four back from the winners. Second place in the championship was the best finish ever for the team, earning coach Sofie Aargaard Big West Women’s Golf Coach of the Year last season.

Although the Mustangs lost Second Team All-Big West player Madison Hirsh to graduation, junior Desiree Gillaspy and the rest of the team haven’t skipped a beat.

The team has finished in the top two in four of its six tournaments so far this season. Two wins at the Hobble Creek Fall Classic in fall and the Battle at the Rock on Tuesday put the team in good position to improve on their second place last year.

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