tom sanders

Cal Poly (20-15, 4-2 Big West), which opened Big West Conference play by winning two of three games against both Pacific and Cal State Northridge the last two weeks, continues conference play this weekend, hosting UC Irvine (19-15, 1-5 Big West) for a three-game Big West series at Baggett Stadium.

Friday’s contest start at 6 p.m., followed by the series finale Saturday at 1 p.m. All three games will be broadcast on ESPN Radio (1280 AM) as well as on the Internet at www.GoPoly.com.

The series is being played one day earlier than usual due to Easter Sunday. A late night result of Thursday’s game was not available at press time.

UC Irvine, which has lost six of its last eight after a 17-9 start, is led by second baseman Cody Cipriano with a .344 average and 11 stolen bases in 13 attempts and outfielder Gary Dudrey at .342 and 12-for-16 in stolen bases. First baseman Jaime Martinez leads the Anteaters with three home runs and 27 RBIs while hitting .282. The Anteaters are hitting just .260 as a team with only 10 home runs, but have stolen 66 of 90 bases. Closer Blair Erickson is among the nation’s leaders in saves with 10 to go with a 3-0 mark and 1.08 ERA.

UC Irvine, coached by Dave Serrano (second season, 50-40, Trinity ’03), has six position starters, four pitchers and five other letter winners back from last year’s 31-25 squad which finished tied for fifth in the Big West with a 10-11 mark. The Anteaters were swept by Long Beach State in their Big West-opening series two weeks ago and won one of three games against No. 1-ranked Cal State Fullerton last weekend.

Cal Poly won two of three games at UC Irvine to close the 2005 season, but the Anteaters still own an 8-7 edge in the series dating back to 1977. UC Irvine, which reinstated baseball in 2002 after a nine-year hiatus, swept Cal Poly in 2004 at Baggett Stadium. Larry Lee is 3-6 against the Anteaters while Dave Serrano is 1-2 against the Mustangs.

Cal State Northridge extended its winning streak against Cal Poly to four games with a 5-3 victory last Friday, scoring three times in the sixth inning to snap a 2-2 tie. The Mustangs finally bested the Matadors on Saturday with a dramatic 7-6 win, scoring five times in the ninth to overcome a 6-2 deficit. Jimmy Gardiner singled to drive in two, Grant Desme belted a two-run home run to tie the game and Matt Cooper broke the tie with an RBI double to left-center field. Cal Poly clinched the series Sunday with an 11-3 victory as Casey Fien pitched eight strong innings with a career-high eight strikeouts, Jimmy Van Ostrand went 3-for-5 and Desme added his eighth home run of the year.

Cal Poly has 33 home runs in 35 games this season, best in the Big West, and a .279 team batting average.

Junior third baseman Josh Lansford leads the Mustangs offensively with a .352 average. Freshman first baseman/designated hitter Adam Buschini owns a .340 mark after going 4-for-11 in back-to-back series while junior catcher Matt Canepa is next at .311. Sophomore center fielder Grant Desme has a seven-game hitting streak and a .293 average, going 12-for-28 during the streak, while senior first baseman/right fielder Jimmy Van Ostrand is hitting .299 and leads Cal Poly and the Big West with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs.

Mustangs coach Larry Lee, in his fourth season as Mustang mentor with a 121-86-2 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 21-23) with a three-game series at UC Riverside.

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