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Cal Poly to Host No. 14 UCLA, No. 19 Michigan This Weekend

Cal Poly to Host No. 14 UCLA, No. 19 Michigan This Weekend

WEEKLY NOTES:
   CAL POLY | UCLA | MICHIGAN | BIG WEST
VIDEO STREAM | VIDEO PREVIEW | LARRY LEE
LIVE STATS: FRIDAY | SAT 1 | SAT 2 | SUNDAY
AUDIO STREAM:
   FRIDAY | SAT 1 | SAT 2 | SUNDAY

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (4-0, 0-0 Big West), which opened its 2016 season with its first four-game series sweep since 2012, continues its 12-game home stand by hosting a pair of nationally ranked teams this weekend in Baggett Stadium (cap.: 2,800).

Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs, off to their third 4-0 start in the last four years, host No. 14 UCLA (1-3, 0-0 Pac-12) for a three-game non-conference series Friday through Sunday and entertains No. 19 Michigan (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten) for a single game Saturday.

First pitches for the UCLA series are set for 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 o'clock on Sunday. Saturday's contest against Michigan starts at 12 noon. All four games will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Dave Grant and Eric Burdick providing the play-by-play. Links for live stats as well as audio and video streams are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.

Cal Poly returns 16 lettermen (two position starters and eight pitchers (four with six or more starts in 2015), but more than two-thirds of the 34-man roster are freshmen or sophomores. The nine returning position players, starters and reserves, hit a combined .230 a year ago and, while eight of last year's 13 pitchers return, their win-loss record combined was 15-18 with an 8.70 ERA.

Despite all the youth, Cal Poly swept Pacific by scores of 6-2, 7-6 (10 innings), 6-3 and 19-2, hitting .323 as a team and compiling a 2.92 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 37 innings. Left fielder Josh George and junior catcher/first baseman Brett Barbier both collected eight hits in the series, George knocking in seven runs and scoring five times. Center fielder Alex McKenna, the reigning Big West Field Player of the Week, went 6-for-12, driving in five runs with a triple and two home runs. He also walked seven times and scored nine runs.

UCLA lost two of three games at home to North Carolina, earning a 6-5 win Saturday sandwiched by 4-0 and 14-5 losses. The Bruins hit just .147 in the series, committed eight errors and allowed 6.00 earned runs a contest. On Tuesday night, UCLA dropped a 10-1 decision to Long Beach State.

Michigan traveled to Port St. Lucie, Florida, and swept Canisius by scores of 9-0, 6-2, 3-0 and 9-3, hitting .350 as a team, stealing 10 of 12 bases and allowing a stingy 0.26 earned runs per game with 41 strikeouts over 34 innings. The Wolverines will play St. Joseph on Friday night in the Jack Gifford Memorial Tournament hosted by Santa Clara in Stephen Schott Stadium before traveling to San Luis Obispo on Saturday.

Cal Poly opened the 2015 season 1-6 and was eight games under the .500 mark before turning things around. The Mustangs hit .303 over their final 23 games, improved their defense by fielding at a .980 clip, won 17 of its final 26 games (including 13 of 15 at home) and made a run for the Big West title.

Both UCLA and Michigan were regional qualifiers in 2015. The Bruins went 3-2 in the Los Angeles Regional, eliminated by Maryland, while the Wolverines posted a 2-2 mark in the Louisville Regional, ousted by the host school.

UCLA, 45-16 a year ago, claimed the 2013 College World Series title and its Pac-12 championship in 2015 was its 11th. The Bruins have made 20 regional appearances and have qualified for both the Super Regionals and College World Series five times.

The Bruins own a 21-9 advantage in their series against Cal Poly, beating the Mustangs twice in the 2013 regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium en route to the national championship. The next year, Cal Poly won two of three games against UCLA, including a 2-0 shutout pitched by Slater Lee, then a freshman, as he tossed a two-hitter with seven strikeouts.

Michigan and Cal Poly are meeting for the first time in baseball. The Wolverines return 19 lettermen, including four position starters and 12 pitchers, from a team that went 39-25 a year ago, finishing tied for third in the Big Ten. Michigan has claimed 35 Big Ten titles, the last in 2008, and has qualified for the regionals 22 times.

Cal Poly's 2016 roster is led by catcher/first baseman Brett Barbier (.253, nine doubles, four triples, three home runs, 34 RBI in 2015) and outfielder John Schuknecht (.237, six home runs, 24 RBI). The Mustangs' lineup last weekend included 11 freshmen (nine true freshmen and a pair of redshirts) as well as three community college transfers. Five of the freshmen were pitchers while the other six frosh and all three transfers were position players.

The starters in a Cal Poly uniform for the first time last weekend were Michael Sanderson (Feather River College) at third base, Kyle Marinconz (Valley Christian High School of San Jose) at second base, Cooper Moore (Huntington Beach High School) at first base, Alex McKenna (Alemany High School) in center field, Nick Meyer (Santa Margarita Catholic High School) behind the plate and Jake Mavropoulos (Oxnard College) as designated hitter along with pitcher Cam Schneider (El Toro High School).

In addition to Schneider, Cal Poly's pitching staff is led by sophomore southpaw Kyle Smith (5-7, 3.95 ERA in 2015), sophomore righty Erich Uelmen (0-1, 7.08 ERA) and junior right-hander Slater Lee (1-1, 6.27 ERA). Also challenging for a spot in the starting rotation is junior right-hander Justin Calomeni (1-3, 5.00 ERA) once he recovers from an injury.

Topping the list of relievers are freshman southpaws Thomas Triantos (Livermore High School) and Justin Bruihl (Casa Grande High School in Petaluma) along with sophomore right-hander Andrew Bernstein (3-3, 5.01 ERA) and redshirt freshman Austin Dondanville.

Cal Poly has produced 12 winning seasons since 2000. The Mustangs were  17-11 at home last season and have won 117 of their last 152 home games for a winning percentage of 77.0 percent. Cal Poly won each of its four Big West series at home in 2015, compiling a 10-2 mark, but lost all four conference road series, two games to one, despite winning the opener each time.

Cal Poly has finished fourth or higher in the Big West 12 times in its last 14 seasons and has posted ten 30-victory campaigns since 2000. The Mustangs have produced 13 non-losing seasons in the last 16 years.

Lee (427-311-2), in his 14th season with the Mustangs, has guided Cal Poly to 11 finishes in the upper half of the Big West standings in the last 13 years. He earned his 400th win March 7, 2015, at Pacific and surpassed Berdy Harr (297-249-6 from 1973-83) as Cal Poly's winningest head baseball coach during the Pacific series in 2011.

Cal Poly plays four more home games next week -- a single game Tuesday night at 6 against Pepperdine and a three-game weekend series against the University of San Francisco (Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.).