Jesse Summers and Trent Merfeld
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Following its Sunday loss to Cal State Northridge, the Cal Poly baseball team stole back some momentum with a 5-1 victory over visiting San Jose State on Tuesday night.
Freshman pitcher Jarred Zill, who has slowly begun to establish himself as one of Cal Poly’s most reliable arms, took command of the game early on by mixing up location and speed against Spartan hitters. After the Mustangs got out to an early three run lead, the game was in his hands.
“I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable on the mound these last couple of starts, I feel like I’m definitely showing improvement,” Zill said. “We hit well at home, and any time I can throw with a three run lead it just allows me to not be as fine with my approach and really go attack hitters.”
In six innings of work, Zill struck out four batters and allowed only a single run. While a fastball and changeup have been his bread and butter this season, Zill has been looking to expand his arsenal for upcoming games and seasons to come.
“I’m actually trying to develop a slider,” Zill said. “I’ve been working on it recently and it would be really helpful to add another pitch. I only threw one today and it was a few feet outside and hit the backstop so I definitely still need to work on it.”
Approaching the end of the season, Cal Poly must fill all the holes that they can in order to compete for a spot in the postseason. One of those holes this season has been starting pitching, and with an effort like Zill put out tonight, the Mustangs are looking like more of a threat than before.
“This was a good outing for Zill,” head coach Larry Lee said. “He gave us six solid innings and its great experience for him as we get closer to playoffs. He kept his pitch count down, which means he’ll still be available this weekend.”
Despite leaving eight runners on base, the Mustangs were able to keep a healthy lead for the entire game.
The three-run second inning rally was sparked by senior outfielder Zack Zehner’s double to left field, who would then score moments later on a single by junior first baseman Ryan Drobny. Zehner definitely had the loudest bat in the Mustang lineup on Tuesday, though, crushing a home run three innings later over the left center wall.
Zehner now leads his team with eigth homers on the season.
“I’m always making small adjustments, working with coaches and taking advice from my teammates,” Zehner said. “I’m not thinking homer at the plate, but I’m always trying to hit the ball hard somewhere.”
Junior second baseman Mark Mathias would also chip in with a couple hits of his own, going 2-for-5 on the night, along with his team-leading eighth stolen base.
The Mustangs will now prepare to face UC Irvine this weekend, one of the top teams in the conference. Known for their trickery on the basepaths and aggressive style of play, Cal Poly is forced to prepare for a tough opponent in only a few short days.
“They have one of the best coaches in college baseball, and all we can do is educate our players on what they have done in the past, and begin to prepare for what they are going to bring to us,” Lee said.
The Mustangs (22-23, 9-6 Big West Conference) will travel south to face the Anteaters this weekend. The first game of the three game series will be played this Friday with the first pitch at 6:30.