BIG WEST RELEASE (pdf)
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen has been selected as the 2015 Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Year and two of his Cal Poly baseball teammates -- junior second baseman Mark Mathias and senior outfielder Zack Zehner -- joined Van Gansen on the all-conference first team.
Van Gansen (5-9, 170, San Fernando, CA/Alemany HS) committed just four errors in 240 fielding chances, the lowest number of errors for a shortstop in the Big West this season, while batting .314 with 10 doubles, three triples, a pair of three-run home runs and 28 RBI.
Van Gansen (pictured at right) produced hitting streaks of eight and 11 games, hit .340 against right-handed pitchers, reached base 20 times in 46 opportunities as the leadoff hitter (43.5 percent) and played every inning of every game at shortstop this season.
Van Gansen, who scored a Big West-leading 43 runs this season, is the second Mustang in as many years to earn Big West defensive player of the year honors. Catcher Chris Hoo nabbed the award a year ago and is now in the Miami Marlins organization.
Mathias (6-0, 205, Fremont, CA/Irvington HS) hit safely in 23 of his last 24 games (a 19-game hitting streak was snapped by UC Riverside on May 16). In his last 29 games of the 2015 season, Mathias hit .400 (48 of 120) to lift his average 54 points to .356 with seven doubles, three triples, one home run and 28 RBI.
Mathias led the Mustangs with nine steals in 13 attempts and was Cal Poly's batting champion for the second straight year, hitting .386 as a sophomore en route to 2014 Big West Field Player of the Year honors.
Zehner (6-4, 215, San Diego, CA/Torrey Pines HS/Santa Barbara CC) was Cal Poly's No. 1 player in home runs with nine and RBI with 45. He hit .304 for the season after hitting safely in 15 of 16 games late in the year, including a 12-game hitting streak. Zehner went 25-for-65 (.385) during the run to lift his average 48 points.
Cal Poly players on the All-Big West second team are senior outfielder Jordan Ellis and junior right-hander Casey Bloomquist. Senior third baseman Tommy Pluschkell earned honorable mention praise.
Ellis (6-0, 190, Garden Grove, CA/Pacifica HS) hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games, including a 13-game hitting streak, going 23-for-65 (.354) to lift his average 23 points to .305. He finished with six triples for the season, best in the Big West, and 12 for his Mustang career, tied for No. 5 all-time at Cal Poly.
Bloomquist (6-3, 185, Bakersfield, CA/Bakersfield Christian HS) won his final eight decisions as the Mustangs' Friday night starter after an 0-2 start, including a 6-0 mark in Big West games, and Cal Poly was 10-2 in his last 12 starts of the season. Bloomquist is 26-6 in three seasons with the Mustangs, No. 4 all-time on Cal Poly's career wins list, while his 2.79 career ERA ranks No. 9.
Pluschkell (6-3, 220, Pleasanton, CA/Amador Valley HS) posted a .283 mark, improving his average 31 points by going 12-for-28 (.429) over the last eight games of the season. He had five two-hit contests during those final eight contests and hit his first collegiate homer, a two-run shot against UC Riverside on May 15.
A trio of players from 2015 Big West champion Cal State Fullerton collected top honors. Junior designated hitter David Olmedo-Barrera earned Big West Co-Field Player of the Year along with UC Santa Barbara senior outfielder Cameron Newell, junior right-hander Thomas Eshelman picked up Big West Pitcher of the Year and head coach Rick Vanderhook collected his third Big West Coach of the Year award.
Walking away with top freshman honors are UC Irvine outfielder Keston Hiura, named Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year, and Long Beach State right-hander Chris Mathewson, the 2015 Big West Freshman Pitcher of the Year.
Eshelman paces the Big West and sits 16th in the nation with a 1.57 ERA, while leading the nation with an astonishing 18.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Newell enters the postseason hitting a league-best .380 to rank 23rd in the nation. Olmedo-Barrera carries a .310 batting average into the postseason and owns the conference's third-best slugging percentage of .540.
Mathewson finished fourth in the league with an ERA of 1.94 in 93.0 innings of work and tossed two complete games en route to a 6-6 record. Hiura ranks second on the team and seventh in the conference with a .330 batting average and paces the Big West with 52 RBI.
Currently in his fourth season as head coach at Cal State Fullerton, Vanderhook guided the Titans to their 20th Big West title with a 16-5 record and they are preparing for their 24th consecutive NCAA appearance this weekend. The Titans dominated conference play, winning all eight series, including three sweeps.
Cal State Fullerton led the league with six All-Big West first-team selections. UC Santa Barbara was second with four nods, followed by Cal Poly with three first-teamers.
Photo above of Peter Van Gansen courtesy of Alexander Bohlen