SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (21-14, 5-4 Big West), which has won five of eight series and is all alone in third place in the Big West Conference standings, visits Big West co-leader Cal State Fullerton (24-12, 7-2 Big West) for a three-game series this weekend at Goodwin Field (cap.: 3,500).
First pitches are set for 7 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. All three games of the series will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play. Audio and video streams as well as live stats will be available on www.gopoly.com.
Cal Poly returned 16 letter winners, including five position starters and five pitchers, off its 2011 squad which finished 27-26 overall and third in the Big West at 15-9. The Mustangs started the year 0-6 before winning 27 of their next 44 games.
Cal Poly is off to a better start in 2012 with series sweeps against Oklahoma State (3-0), Loyola Marymount (4-0) and UC Irvine (3-0) as well as series wins over Washington (2-1) and San Diego State (3-1). The Mustangs, 7-1 in February, posted a 10-8 record in March, including series losses to Minnesota and Long Beach State, and are 4-5 so far in April after winning one of three games at Cal State Northridge over the weekend and falling 5-3 to Fresno State on Tuesday.
The Cal State Northridge series was to open Friday afternoon at Matador Field, but rain postponed the game and the Matadors and Mustangs played a doubleheader Saturday. Cal State Northridge claimed the opener 6-5 in 11 innings while Kyle Anderson pitched seven strong innings as Cal Poly bounced back with a 6-1 triumph in the nightcap. The Mustangs stranded 15 runners on the basepaths in the series finale Sunday, won by the Matadors 6-3.
Cal Poly let a 3-1 lead slip away in the ninth as Fresno State scored four times for the win, handing the Mustangs their first loss of the season in 21 games in which Cal Poly led after eight innings.
Cal State Fullerton won two of three games at UC Irvine last weekend, bouncing back from a 4-1 setback in the opener for 13-2 and 5-3 triumphs. The Titans also rallied with seven runs in the seventh and eighth frames to turn 2-1 and 6-5 deficits into an 8-6 win over Pepperdine in Tuesday.
Cal Poly's top hitter through 35 games is junior center fielder Mitch Haniger, who went 8-for-13 in the Cal State Northridge series, had 10 hits in four games last week en route to Big West Player of the Week honors and added three more hits in Tuesday's loss to Fresno State. He currently is hitting .343 and leads the Mustangs with seven home runs and 37 RBI.
Sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen sports a .341 average with nine doubles, two home runs and 20 RBI. He went 7-for-14 in the Cal State Northridge series and has produced a pair of seven-game hitting streaks this season. Senior shortstop Mike Miller (pictured above) is hitting .336 with 10 doubles, four triples, 22 RBI and 35 runs scored. He had a 14-game hitting streak earlier this season. Sophomore left fielder David Armendariz is hitting .311 with six doubles and 17 RBI while freshman right fielder Nick Torres has a .286 mark with 10 doubles and 20 RBI.
Cal Poly's pitching rotation for the weekend series includes junior right-hander Joey Wagman (5-2, 2.40 ERA) on Friday, senior southpaw Kyle Anderson (6-1, 2.08 ERA) (pictured above) on Saturday and junior right-hander Kyle Brueggemann (4-3, 4.76 ERA) on Sunday.
Cal State Fullerton, coached by Rick Vanderhook (first season, 24-12, Trinity University '03), returned 16 lettermen, including six position starters and two pitchers, off a team which went 41-17 a year ago, finished first in the Big West Conference at 19-5 and was selected to participate in the NCAA Fullerton Regional, posting a 1-2 mark.
The Titans have played 12 games against top-25 teams, losing two of three at No. 1 Florida but winning series against No. 15 Texas Christian and No. 6 Texas A&M and splitting two games against No. 14 Arizona State. Cal State Fullerton also has won series against Utah Valley, Long Beach State, Oral Roberts, Cal State Northridge, UC Davis and UC Irvine. The Titans have won 10 of their last 13 games.
Top hitters so far in 2012 for the Titans are third baseman Richy Pedroza (.328, 17 RBI), center fielder Michael Lorenzen (.317, 12 doubles, 24 RBI, 11 steals) and first baseman Carlos Lopez (.317, 10 doubles, 19 RBI). The pitching staff is paced by right-handers Dylan Floro (5-3, 2.32 ERA) and Grahamm Wiest (3-3, 3.24 ERA) along with southpaw Kenny Mathews (4-0, 3.10 ERA). The closer is Lorenzen with a 0.63 ERA and 12 saves.
Cal State Fullerton captured NCAA College World Series titles in 1979, 1984, 1995 and 2004, has appeared in the NCAA postseason 33 times, including 20 straight, has reached the College World Series 16 times and has claimed 25 conference championships.
Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton have met 92 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1966. The Titans hold a 59-33 advantage, though Cal Poly has enjoyed some recent success with six victories in the last 15 meetings over the last five seasons, winning series at home in 2007 and 2011.
Cal Poly was ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper after its 7-1 start and No. 27 last week after sweeping UC Irvine.
A year ago Cal Poly posted its sixth winning season in the last eight years, and a third-place finish in the highly competitive Big West Conference at 15-9. The Mustangs have finished in the upper half of the league standings eight times in the last 10 years. Cal Poly was 7-4 against top-25 teams in 2011 and finished 19-7 at home.
Cal Poly is 11-1 on Saturday, 5-1 in shutouts, 20-1 when leading after eight innings, 16-3 when outhitting its foes and 14-4 when making fewer errors than the opposition this season.
Next week Cal Poly plays at Fresno State on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. before returning home to host Pacific for a Big West series April 27-29.