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February 17, 2014

Cal Poly Plays 11 of Next 12 Baseball Games on the Road

WEEKLY NOTES: CAL POLY | SANTA CLARA | BIG WEST
LIVE STATS | AUDIO STREAM | VIDEO STREAM
ALLEN, IMHOF EARN BIG WEST HONORS
CAL POLY RANKED NO. 22 IN THREE MAJOR POLLS
VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS OF KANSAS STATE SERIES

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (3-0), ranked No. 22 in the Baseball America poll and No. 26 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper this week following a season-opening series sweep against 2013 NCAA Super Regional qualifier Kansas State, plays the first of 13 midweek games Tuesday night, visiting Santa Clara (1-3) in Stephen Schott Stadium (cap.: 1,500).

Game time is 6 p.m. and the non-conference contest will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Tom Barket calling the play-by-play. Live stats as well as audio and video streams will be available at www.GoPoly.com.

Junior southpaw Matt Imhof set the tone for the Kansas State series by striking out a career-high 14 batters in seven innings, tying the school Division I record, in a 3-0 Mustang victory Friday. Nick Torres and Jordan Ellis combined for seven hits and freshman right-hander Slater Lee tossed 6 1/3 solid innings in a 5-2 triumph Saturday and Cal Poly erupted for 14 hits, including a three-run home run by Torres and three hits by Brian Mundell, in Sunday's 10-1 romp.

Off to a 3-0 start for the third straight year – the Mustangs swept Oklahoma State in 2012 and San Francisco a year ago – Cal Poly scored 18 runs on 33 hits for a .324 team batting average in the series while the pitching staff held the Wildcats to just three runs and 11 hits with 33 strikeouts for a 1.00 ERA.

"Overall, it was a very successful weekend in all facets of the game," said 12th-year Mustang head coach Larry Lee. "We posted some real good pitching numbers and were able to take away what Kansas State does best.

"We had a couple outstanding starting performances on the mound and made just one error in 27 innings of defense," Lee added. "Our hitters got more comfortable at the plate as the series progressed and some of our younger players got their feet wet for the first time as well."

Santa Clara fell 4-1 to Nevada, 4-1 to Boston College and 8-6 to Boston College again before earning a walkoff 4-3 win over Nevada in the Santa Clara Invitational. C.J. Jacobe's 10th-inning single knocked in the winning run for the Broncos.

Cal Poly, 40-19 a year ago for its first 40-win season in Division I and third overall, returns 19 letter winners, including eight position starters and seven pitchers, off its 2013 squad which swept five series and won 10 of 15 weekend series. Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs went 1-2 in the Los Angeles Regional hosted by UCLA.

Cal Poly won its first seven games of the 2013 season and sprinted to a 13-1 start. Never losing more than three games in a row, Cal Poly steadily climbed 17 games over the .500 mark during the next seven weeks of play. A late-season surge with 11 wins in their last 14 games enabled the Mustangs to post their third 40-win season in school history, falling one victory shy of the record of 41 wins in both 1977 and 1992. The Mustangs finished second in the Big West for the second straight year.

Topping Cal Poly's list of returnees are senior third baseman Jimmy Allen (.299, 39 RBI) and junior relief pitcher Reed Reilly (2.29 ERA, 14 saves), both of whom were drafted last June but chose to return to Cal Poly for another season.

Also returning are outfielders Nick Torres (.333, seven home runs, 49 RBI) and Jordan Ellis (.323, 18 RBI), infielders Tim Wise, Peter Van Gansen and John Schuknecht, catcher Chris Hoo and designated hitter Brian Mundell (.265, 11 home runs, 42 RBI).

Joining Reilly on the pitching staff are starters Matt Imhof (7-3, 2.74 ERA), Casey Bloomquist (6-2, 5.02 ERA) and Bryan Granger (5-4, 5.37 ERA) and relievers Taylor Chris (1-0, 2.55 ERA) and Danny Zandona (2-1, 4.50 ERA), among others.

Santa Clara, 14-39 a year ago and 1-23 for ninth place in the West Coast Conference, returns 20 letter winners, including six position starters and eight pitchers. Top returnees include outfielder Casey Munoz (.308, 31 RBI in 2013) and utility player Greg Harisis (.293, 25 RBI, 13 steals) along with pitchers Max Deering (2-4, 5.75 ERA) and Reece Karalus (0-9, 7.04 ERA).

Karalus is expected to start for Santa Clara against Cal Poly freshman right-hander Justin Calomeni, who was 8-1 with a 1.07 ERA as a senior last spring at nearby Bellarmine Prep. He struck out 75 batters in 78 innings and tossed four shutouts among his six complete games.

Coached by Dan O'Brien (third season, 41-70, UC San Diego '95), Santa Clara hit .237 in its four tournament games, led by Jose Vizcaino Jr. (5-for-13), Zach Looney (5-for-14) and Harisis (6-for-17). The Broncos produced nine doubles and a home run, stole seven of 12 bases and compiled a 3.41 staff ERA and .958 fielding percentage with seven errors in four games.

Santa Clara has made 11 trips to the NCAA regionals, including one appearance in the College World Series in 1962. Last postseason trip was in 1997. Since 1988, Santa Clara has finished first in the West Coast Conference four times, the last in 2001.

O'Brien was head coach at UC San Diego for 14 seasons, compiling a 454-283-1 record, before he was hired as Santa Clara's head coach on June 30, 2011, replacing Mark O'Brien. The Tritons qualified for the NCAA Division II West Regional five times in the last eight seasons under Dan O'Brien, making two trips to the Division II College World Series.

A year ago, Cal Poly surpassed the 30-win mark for the ninth time in the last 14 years and clinched its 11th winning season since 2000 by sweeping UC Riverside in early May. The Mustangs moved 21 games above the .500 mark for the first time in their 19-year Division I history by sweeping Cal State Northridge on May 17-19. Cal Poly was 13-1 on the year after sweeping a doubleheader at Kansas State by 13-10 and 6-2 scores in early March.

Lee, in his 12th season with the Mustangs, has guided Cal Poly to five 3-0 starts with season-opening series sweeps over San Diego in 2005, Fresno State in 2006, Oklahoma State in 2012, San Francisco last year and Kansas State this season. The Mustangs have finished in the upper half of the conference standings 10 times in the last 12 years.

Lee (352-272-2) earned his 300th win on May 5, 2012, in a 12-7 decision at UC Davis. Lee surpassed Berdy Harr (297-249-6 from 1973-83) as Cal Poly's winningest head baseball coach during the Pacific series a week earlier. Steve McFarland was 290-257 in 10 seasons (1984-93) at the helm of the Mustangs while Ritch Price was 217-228-1 in Cal Poly's first eight years of play in Division I (1995-2002).

After opening the season at home with three games against Kansas State, the Mustangs will play 11 of their next 12 games on the road, starting Tuesday night at Santa Clara. Cal Poly visits defending national champion UCLA for a three-game series in Jackie Robinson this weekend, followed by weekend series at USC and Seattle.