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Cal Poly Wraps Up 10-Game Road Trip With Series at Wichita State

Cal Poly Wraps Up 10-Game Road Trip With Series at Wichita State

WEEKLY NOTES:
   CAL POLY | WICHITA STATE | BIG WEST
AUDIO STREAM:
   THURSDAY | FRIDAY | SATURDAY
VIDEO STREAM:
   THURSDAY | FRIDAY | SATURDAY
LIVE STATS:
   THURSDAY | FRIDAY | SATURDAY
ERICH UELMEN HONORED BY BIG WEST

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (13-6, 0-0 Big West), which won 10 of its first 12 games for the second time in three years and won a series for the third time in five weeks, taking two of three games against Sacramento State last weekend, concludes its 10-game road trip this weekend, visiting Missouri Valley Conference member Wichita State (6-14, 0-0 MVC) for a three-game series at Eck Stadium (cap.: 7,851).

First pitches are set for 4:30 p.m. PDT both Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. PDT on Saturday. All three games of the series will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Dave Grant providing the play-by-play. Links for live stats as well as audio and video (ESPN3) streams are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.

Cal Poly returned 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 five weeks ago, split four games against a pair of nationally ranked teams -- No. 19 Michigan and No. 14 UCLA -- defeated Pepperdine 6-5 on Kevin Morgan's ninth-inning one-out single to right field and swept San Francisco before going out on the road for the first time. Pepperdine snapped the Mustangs' five-game winning streak with a 12-4 triumph, scoring 11 runs in the second inning, and the Mustangs lost two of three games at Grand Canyon. Last weekend Cal Poly won two of three games at Sacramento State, sweeping a doubleheader Saturday 6-4 and 4-0 and falling in Sunday's series finale 3-2.

Wichita State opened its 2016 season by winning a series against Northern Colorado, two games to one, but has lost 14 of its last 18 games, swept by New Mexico and Cal State Fullerton. The Shockers won once in three games against both Sam Houston State and Nebraska and own midweek wins over Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota. On Tuesday, Wichita State fell 17-0 to No. 22 Oklahoma State.

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 their final 26 games (including 13 of 15 at home) and made a run for the Big West title.

Wichita State returned 15 players, including six position starters and eight pitchers, off a team which finished 26-33 a year ago and placed third in the Missouri Valley Conference title with a 10-11 mark. The Shockers have appeared in seven College World Series (the last in 1996), have made 27 NCAA regional appearances (the last in 2009) and last won a Missouri Valley title in 2010.

Topping the list of returning veterans are first baseman Ryan Tinkham (.333, 10 home runs, 46 RBI in 2015), left fielder Mikel Mucha (.313, 18 RBI) and catcher Gunnar Troutwine (.298, three home runs, 30 RBI). The pitching staff is led by John Hayes (6-2, 2.79 ERA, four saves in 205), Chase Williams (3-4, 5.59 ERA) and Tyler Jones (1-3, 8.31 ERA), all right-handers.

Coached by Todd Butler (third year at Wichita State (63-74), sixth year overall (153-158), McNeese State '91), Wichita State has a .263 team batting average through 20 games, led by Troutwine (.312, three homers, 15 RBI), Mucha (.308, four doubles, seven RBI, seven steals) and middle infielder Tanner Kirk (.302, six doubles, nine RBI). The Shockers sport a 5.98 staff ERA and .963 fielding percentage with 27 errors in 20 games.

Cal Poly and Wichita State are meeting for the first time this weekend. The Shockers will play a three-game series at Baggett Stadium in 2017.

Butler replaced legendary Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson prior to the 2014 season. Stephenson compiled a 1,768-673 record over 36 seasons, guided the Shockers to seven College World Series and 26 NCAA regional appearances and his teams never had a losing season. The 1982 Wichita State team earned an NCAA-record 73 wins while the 1989 Shockers captured the national championship.

Butler was head coach at McNeese State from 2001-03, compiling a 90-83 mark and one Southland Conference title, and was an assistant at Alabama and Arkansas before he was hired at Wichita State. Butler was an All-American player at McNeese State (1985-86) and Oklahoma (1987-88). He stole 46 bases in 1988, an Oklahoma school record.

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 have used nine position players and eight pitchers who are wearing a Cal Poly uniform for the first time this season. The Mustangs' lineup in the season-opening Pacific series included 11 freshmen (nine true freshmen and a pair of redshirts) as well as three community college transfers. In the second game of the Grand Canyon series two weeks ago, six true freshmen were in the starting lineup along with one transfer.

Cal Poly's pitching staff is led by sophomore southpaw Kyle Smith (5-7, 3.95 ERA in 2015) and sophomore righty Erich Uelmen (0-1, 7.08 ERA). Also challenging for spots in the starting rotation are junior right-hander Slater Lee (1-1, 6.27 ERA in 2015), freshman right-hander Cam Schneider and junior right-hander Justin Calomeni (1-3, 5.00 ERA), who earned two wins and a save, all in relief, in his first week of action three weeks ago following his recovery from a knee 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.

Through 19 games, Barbier is Cal Poly's top hitter with a .414 average and 12 RBI, followed by junior third baseman Michael Sanderson (.313, three doubles, 10 RBI) and sophomore left fielder Josh George .300, three doubles, eight RBI).

Three other Mustangs are close to the .300 mark: freshman center fielder Alex McKenna (.296, four home runs, 14 RBI), senior right fielder John Schuknecht (.297, six doubles, three home runs, 21 RBI) and freshman shortstop Kyle Marinconz (.292, six doubles, nine RBI). Both McKenna (Pacific series) and Schuknecht (San Francisco series) have earned Big West Field Player of the Week honors this season.

Cal Poly owns a .272 team batting average, has stolen nine of 15 bases (4-for-4 against Grand Canyon), sports a .964 fielding percentage with 26 errors in 19 games and has compiled a 4.11 staff ERA.

Because of the Thursday-Saturday schedule this week, Cal Poly's pitching rotation will start with freshman southpaw Justin Bruihl (pictured above) (0-0, 4.72 ERA), followed by sophomore southpaw Kyle Smith (3-1, 2.72 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Erich Uelmen (3-0, 2.02 ERA).

Cal Poly has produced 12 winning seasons since 2000. The Mustangs were 17-11 at home last season and have won 123 of their last 160 home games for a winning percentage of 76.9 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 (434-315-2), 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.

Next week, Cal Poly returns home for its final Big West Conference tune-ups, hosting CSU Bakersfield on March 29 at 6 p.m. and San Jose State for three games April 1-3. The Mustangs open Big West play April 8-10 at home against Cal State Fullerton.