SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Junior catcher Jordan Hadlock had a lot of numbers working against him, individually and collectively as a team, but his bases-loaded double with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning drove in the tying and winning runs as Cal Poly defeated UC Riverside 4-3 on Sunday afternoon before 1,313 in Baggett Stadium.
The victory gave Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs the Big West Conference series, two games to one, and improved Cal Poly to 10-13 for the season and 2-1 in conference games. The Highlanders, who had earned series wins over the Mustangs each of the last four years, fell to 11-11 and 1-2.
Cal Poly was 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position in Sunday's game -- Chris Hoo's sixth-inning RBI double which tied the game at 2-2 accounting for the lone hit -- and was hitting .220 for the season in such situations. In addition, the Mustangs were 3-for-24 (.125) with the bases loaded for the year.
Hadlock (pictured above), pinch-hitting for left fielder Matt Russell, carried a .053 batting average to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded in the 10th inning, Cal Poly trailing 3-2.
But the backup catcher delivered, belting a 1-0 pitch from UC Riverside closer Mitch Patito into the gap in left-center field to score Mitch Haniger from third and pinch-runner Jono Grayson from second, giving Cal Poly the series-clinching victory.
The Mustangs are 1-1 in extra-inning games this season and have won 11 of their last 12 overtime contests dating back to the 2008 season. The lone blemish was a 7-4 loss in 11 innings to Pepperdine last Tuesday night, snapping a string of 10 consecutive extra-inning wins.
UC Riverside broke the 2-2 deadlock in the top of the 10th on Trevor Hairgrove's safety squeeze bunt with nobody out and runners at first and third. The Highlanders went on to load the bases, but an infield fly and a strikeout ended the threat.
Patito, with four saves and a 2.57 ERA, walked designated hitter DJ Gentile and hit Haniger with a pitch to open the bottom of the 10th. Shortstop J.J. Thompson's sacrifice bunt moved both runners up 90 feet and Hoo walked to load the bases with one out.
Third baseman Evan Busby's grounder to first base was turned into a force play at the plate for out No. 2 and Hadlock was summoned from the bench to hit for Russell. A graduate of Douglas High School in Gardnerville, Nev., Hadlock drove the second pitch from Patito all the way to the wall in left-center field, giving Cal Poly the win.
Mustang junior closer Jeff Johnson (2-0), who pitched three innings against Pepperdine on Tuesday and also pitched to two batters Friday night, worked 3 2/3 innings Sunday for the victory, allowing one run and two hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
Cal Poly starter Chase Johnson, a freshman right-hander, pitched five-plus innings and gave up two runs and five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
The loss went to Patito (1-3), Highlander starter Trevor Frank pitched well, surrendering just two runs and eight hits in eight innings with two walks and six strikeouts.
Both teams scored a run in the first inning. Tony Nix doubled to deep center field to push across the Highlander run in the top of the frame and Mike Miller's line drive sacrifice fly to left knotted the score in the bottom of the first.
UC Riverside went ahead 2-1 in the fifth as Eddie Young doubled, took third on a balk and came home on Bart Steponovich's single to right field.
In the Mustang sixth, back-to-back doubles by Thompson and Hoo plated the run and tied the game at 2-2.
Cal Poly had a golden opportunity to win it in the ninth, but a pair of infield groundouts with two runners on base quelled the rally.
The Mustangs, 0-10 when outhit by the opposition, are now 9-2 when posting more hits after outhitting the Highlanders 9-7 Sunday. Cal Poly also was 0-8 when allowing their opponent to score a run in the first inning before posting its first such victory Sunday.
Mustang center fielder Bobby Crocker extended his hitting streak to nine games, one shy of his career best, when he doubled in the first inning. The junior also singled in the fifth and is 15-for-35 during his hitting streak, lifting his batting average for the season to .341.
Busby and second baseman Denver Chavez also had a pair of hits for Cal Poly. Both of Chavez's hits were doubles and the Mustangs had six two-baggers for the game.
Nix had two hits for UC Riverside.
The two teams swapped four-hitters in the first two games of the series. On Friday night, Mason Radeke and Jeff Johnson combined on a four-hitter as Cal Poly beat UC Riverside 4-1 in the series opener. Right-handers Matt Larkins and Dustin Emmons combined on a four-hit shutout as the Highlanders blanked the Mustangs 3-0 in the second game Saturday night.
Cal Poly, which has played 16 of its last 17 games at home, will play its next five contests on the road, starting Tuesday afternoon at the University of San Francisco. The Dons are 12-16 after a 4-3 win at Fresno State on Sunday.
The Mustangs resume Big West play next weekend at Cal State Northridge.