CAL POLY | FRESNO STATE | BIG WEST
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (21-13, 4-2 Big West), which won 10 of its first 12 games for the second time in three years and opened Big West Conference play with series wins over Cal State Fullerton and Hawai'i, steps away from Big West play Tuesday night with a single non-conference game against Central California rival Fresno State (24-13, 12-6 Mountain West) inside Baggett Stadium (cap.: 2,800).
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. PDT and the game 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 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 has won six of nine weekend series, including victories over No. 14 UCLA and No. 19 Michigan, and is eight games above the .500 mark for the seventh time this season. The Mustangs bounced back from Friday's 6-3 loss at Hawai'i to win the series with 5-4 and 5-2 triumphs.
Fresno State opened its 2016 season with 11 consecutive victories, then lost seven in a row before winning five straight. The Bulldogs own series wins over Creighton, Youngstown State, San Diego State, Air Force and, last weekend, Nevada by scores of 5-4, 8-3 and 7-6, and are second in the Mountain West, two games behind New Mexico. Fresno State lost all three games of a series in Albuquerque on April 8-10.
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.
Fresno State returned 21 letter winners, including six starting position players and nine pitchers, off a team which finished 31-28 a year ago and placed third in the Mountain West with an 18-12 mark.
Top returnees include right fielder Austin Guibor (.339, five home runs, 21 RBI in 2015), infielder Kevin Viers (.257, seven home runs, 34 RBI) and infielder Ryan Dobson (.245, seven RBI). Top returning pitchers include right-handers Tim Borst (4-4, 4.65 ERA in 2015) and Jimmy Lambert (4-2, 4.66 ERA) along with southpaw Anthony Arias (2-3, 5.40 ERA).
Mike Batesole is in his 14th season as head coach at Fresno State after seven seasons at Cal State Northridge. He is 466-367 with the Bulldogs and 722-525-1 overall, earning his 700th win in Game 2 of the current campaign. The Bulldogs have made 33 NCAA tournament appearances, including four in the College World Series and capturing the national title in 2008.
The last of Fresno State's 34 conference championships was in 2012.
Fresno State's top hitters through 37 games are center fielder Brody Russell (.402, 13 doubles, four home runs, 34 RBI), second baseman Scott Silva (.333, 11 RBI), left fielder Jake Stone (.313, 12 doubles, 22 RBI) and first baseman Aaron Arruda (.311, 11 doubles, eight home runs, 28 RBI).
The Bulldogs are hitting .285 as a team with 34 steals in 52 attempts. Fresno State's pitching staff has compiled a 3.46 ERA and the Bulldogs own a .969 fielding percentage with 43 errors in 37 games.
Cal Poly and Fresno State are meeting for the 179th time Tuesday night. The Mustangs won both midweek games a year ago by scores of 7-6 in Fresno and 10-6 in San Luis Obispo. The two teams did not face each other in the 2013 or 2014 seasons.
The Bulldogs own a 113-65 advantage, though the Mustangs have enjoyed some recent success. In 2005 Cal Poly swept Fresno State in a three-game series for the first time in the then-60-year history of the rivalry and duplicated the feat opening the 2006 campaign in Baggett Stadium and again in 2007 at Beiden Field. The Mustangs have won 20 of their last 26 games against the Bulldogs, including three of five games during Fresno State's national championship season in 2008.
Starting pitchers for Tuesday's game will be freshman right-hander Cam Schneider (1-2, 5.91 ERA) for Cal Poly and freshman southpaw Kenny Varnell (1-0, 7.43 ERA) for Fresno State.
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 only two returning starting position players.
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 in mid-March, 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). Third spot in the weekend rotation has been filled with junior right-hander Slater Lee (1-1, 6.27 ERA), freshman right-hander Cam Schneider and, for the last three weeks, sophomore righty Jarred Zill (4-1, 3.18 ERA).
Topping the list of relievers are junior right-hander Justin Calomeni (1-3, 5.00 ERA in 2015), 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 freshmen Austin Dondanville and Spencer Howard.
Through 34 games, Barbier is Cal Poly's top hitter with a .380 average, 10 doubles and 19 RBI, followed by freshman middle infielder Kyle Marinconz (.323, 10 doubles, 17 RBI) and junior third baseman Michael Sanderson (.293, six doubles, 17 RBI).
Both freshman center fielder Alex McKenna (Pacific series) and Schuknecht (San Francisco series) have earned Big West Field Player of the Week honors this season while Uelmen was named Big West Pitcher of the Week for his performance in the Sacramento State series. McKenna went 8-for-14 and hit for the cycle in the San Jose State series, bumping his average up 41 points.
Cal Poly owns a .270 team batting average, has stolen 16 of 26 bases, sports a .960 fielding percentage with 53 errors in 34 games and has compiled a 3.76 staff ERA.
Cal Poly has produced 12 winning seasons since 2000. The Mustangs were 17-11 at home last season and have won 127 of their last 168 home games for a winning percentage of 76 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 (444-324-2), 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.
This weekend, Cal Poly plays a three-game Big West series Friday through Sunday against first-place and No. 11/13 UC Santa Barbara inside Baggett Stadium in the renewal of the Blue-Green Rivalry.
Cal Poly to Host Central California Rival Fresno State for Single Game
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