(File Photo By Ian Billings)
As Joey Wagman put it, no starting pitcher ever wants to come out of a game.
But with a standing ovation, it’s a little bit easier.
Wagman recorded his 11th win of the season Friday night as Cal Poly (35-16, 13-9 Big West Conference) defeated Cal State Northridge, 5-1.
Tonight marked game one of a three-game set with the Matadors (31-21, 15-7 Big West) and the Mustangs’ penultimate series of the 2013 season.
With Cal State Fullerton running away with first place in the Big West, Cal Poly will likely need to win the majority of its remaining games to get a postseason bid.
“We have to make sure that second place spot is ours,” right fielder Nick Torres said. “It would have been great to win the Big West, but at this point we are just trying to keep up with Fullerton.”
The Mustangs got the leadoff man on in each of the first four innings, something head coach Larry Lee preaches on a regular basis. But Cal Poly couldn’t capitalize on those base runners, leaving men on base in the first and second inning.
“We had a chance to really do some damage offensively,” Lee said. “We just haven’t been able to do that the majority of the season.”
With the leadoff man on in the third inning, Denver Chavez and Torres both cashed in with RBIs, giving the Mustangs a 2-1 lead.
Torres reached out of the zone on a fastball and sent a line drive the opposite way, barely fair down the right field line.
“I figured since I already smacked a couple of curveballs, they were just going to try and blow fastballs by me,” Torres said. “I was on them, just chased a little bit out of the zone. As soon I saw that it was going to get chalk, I started booking.”
Torres landed on second base for catcher Elliot Stewart, who started the game over a struggling Chris Hoo.
“(Stewart) gives us a better chance offensively,” Lee said.
On Friday, Lee was correct. Stewart joined the third inning RBI parade and added a couple of his own with a two-out double.
But before the Mustangs were on the board, Wagman had to work hard early.
After a couple quick singles from Cal State Northridge in the second and third innings, Wagman found himself in back-to-back jams.
“That’s baseball,” Wagman said. “I’ve pitched here long enough to know that stuff is going to happen. It’ s all about how you can control that.”
Wagman, with help from the explosive third inning offense, was able to right the ship and settle into a groove.
“It’s always nice when the offense explodes like that,” Wagman said. “It makes me a lot more comfortable and it allows me to stay in my game plan of attacking.”
Even with the high stakes in the Big West, tonight’s game meant a little more to Wagman, as the senior tossed his final game under Baggett Stadium’s bright lights.
“We knew that he was going to come out and shove tonight with it being his last home start of his career,” Torres said. “He scuffled a little bit at the beginning, but we know that we had to put up runs to win the game.”
After 135 pitches, nine strikeouts and only one walk, Wagman exited the game in the eighth, jogging off the mound to a standing ovation from Baggett Stadium.
“The fans have been great here,” Wagman said. “They’ve been unbelievable all four years for me. I definitely heard the crowd.”
Reed Reilly, currently tied with the all-time single season school saves record, took over for Wagman and shut the door on Cal State Northridge.
And after dropping two of three to UC Irvine last weekend, Cal Poly fell to a fourth place tie with UC Santa Barbara in the Big West.
But according to Lee, the approach doesn’t change, even if the Mustangs rank below three teams with five games to play.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with where we are placed in conference,” Lee said. “Winning tonight continues to put us in a real good situation for postseason opportunities.”
Sophomore Matt Imhof will take the hill tomorrow afternoon for his 14th start of the season.
First pitch is at 1 p.m.
“We just go out and play the game that’s in front of us,” Wagman said. “We always say, no matter what the day is, the next game is the most important game of the season.”