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April 26, 2012

Cal Poly Baseball Returns Home to Host Pacific for Big West Series

NOTES: CAL POLY | PACIFIC | BIG WEST
ANDERSON PLACED ON PITCHER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST |
LARRY LEE: IN HIS FAMILY'S FOOTSTEPS (blog)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (22-17, 6-6 Big West), which has won five of nine weekend series, including three sweeps, and is all alone in fourth place in the Big West Conference standings, returns home to host Pacific (11-28, 1-8 Big West) for a three-game Big West Conference series this weekend in Baggett Stadium (cap.: 1,734).

First pitches are set for 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 1 o'clock on 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 jumped to a much better 20-10 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 5-8 so far in April after winning one of three games at both Cal State Northridge and No. 12 Cal State Fullerton. Cal Poly is 2-7 since sweeping UC Irvine on April 5-7 in Baggett Stadium, with eight of those nine games played on the road.

Cal State Fullerton opened its series against Cal Poly with a 6-1 triumph last Friday, scoring four times in the sixth inning to break open a 2-0 contest. The Mustangs belted three home runs, all with two outs, to account for all of their runs in an 8-6 triumph Saturday night. Mitch Haniger and Nick Torres belted three-run shots in the sixth inning and Alex Michaels provided the game-winner with a pinch-hit two-run tiebreaking home run in the eighth. Reed Reilly pitched four scoreless innings in relief for the win. Cal Poly overcame 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits Sunday, tallied two runs in the ninth for a 4-3 lead and was within one out of a series-clinching victory before the Titans scored a run in the ninth and another in the 10th for a 5-4 win.

Last Tuesday, Cal Poly let a 2-0 lead slip away in the sixth inning as Fresno State rallied for a 3-2 win at Pete Beiden Field. The Mustangs had a streak of nine consecutive games with 10 or more hits (.318 average) snapped as they collected just four hits, The Bulldogs won both games against the Mustangs this season, handing Cal Poly its first loss of the season in 21 games in which the Mustangs led after eight innings with a 5-3 triumph April 17 in Baggett Stadium, scoring four times in the ninth to erase a 3-1 deficit.

Pacific was swept by UC Santa Barbara at home last weekend by scores of 6-5, 9-2 and 6-2 and fell Tuesday at Nevada 15-4.

Cal Poly's top hitter through 39 games is senior shortstop Mike Miller , who is hitting .339 with 11 doubles, four triples, 23 RBI and 37 runs scored. He had a 14-game hitting streak earlier this season. Junior center fielder Mitch Haniger, who went 5-for-14 with four RBI in the Cal State Fullerton series, sports a .338 mark and leads the Mustangs and the Big West with eight home runs and 41 RBI. Sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen is hitting .338 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 21 RBI while sophomore left fielder David Armendariz has a .309 average with eight doubles and 18 RBI.

Cal Poly's pitching rotation for the Pacific series -- the same since the second week of the season -- features junior right-hander Joey Wagman (5-3, 2.75 ERA) on Friday, senior southpaw Kyle Anderson (6-1, 2.47 ERA) on Saturday and junior right-hander Kyle Brueggemann (4-3, 4.81 ERA) on Sunday. Anderson was placed on the College Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher of the Year watch list earlier this week.

Pacific, coached by former Major League standout Ed Sprague (ninth season (190-291), Stanford '88), returned 16 lettermen, including eight position starters and eight pitchers, off a team which went 17-37 a year ago and finished eighth in the Big West at 9-15. The Tigers, who lost their first eight games of the season, swept a four-game series against Brown on March 24-26, but have lost four straight and 12 of their last 15 games.

Top hitters so far in 2012 for the Tigers are catcher/infielder Riley Drongesen (.380, 13 RBI), first baseman Erik Lockwood (.364, 22 RBI) and third baseman Dustin Torchio (.303, 22 RBI). The pitching staff is led by right-handers Michael Benson (2-5, 2.79 ERA) and Mike Hager (3-3, 4.47 ERA) and southpaw Kyle Crawford (2-5, 6.63 ERA). The closer is right-hander John Prato Matthews (2-5, 2.14 ERA, three saves).

Pacific is hitting .279 this season, has compiled a 5.44 staff ERA and has committed 52 errors in 39 games for a .964 fielding percentage. The Tigers, who posted back-to-back 30-win seasons in 2005 and 2006 and won 31 games in 2010, are still seeking their first Big West title and NCAA Division I regional playoff berth in baseball. Pacific will move to the West Coast Conference beginning with the 2013-14 school year.

Cal Poly and Pacific have met 69 times on the baseball field since the series began in 1946. The Mustangs hold a 39-30 advantage, beating the Tigers 20 of the last 26 times and 26 of 36, taking the series 12 straight years. Last year in Stockton, Cal Poly bounced back from a 6-1 loss in the opener with 3-2 and 21-0 triumphs.

Cal Poly was ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper after its 7-1 start and No. 27 two weeks ago 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 12-1 on Saturday, 5-1 in shutouts, 21-1 when leading after eight innings, 17-5 when outhitting its foes and 14-5 when making fewer errors than the opposition this season.

Cal Poly, which plays 10 of its final 17 games of the 2012 season at home, hosts Pepperdine next Tuesday night and visits UC Davis for a Big West series next weekend (May 4-6).