WEEKLY NOTES: CAL POLY | CSUB | BIG WEST
AUDIO STREAM | LIVE STATS
SCHUKNECHT HONORED BY BIG WEST
BARBIER ATHLETE OF THE MONTH FOR APRIL
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (28-22, 9-9 Big West), all alone in fourth place in the Big West Conference standings after winning its series at home against UC Irvine, steps away from Big West play one more time as the Mustangs visit CSU Bakersfield (15-34, 9-14 Western Athletic) for their final midweek game of the 2016 season Tuesday night.
First pitch at Hardt Field (cap.: 2,000) 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 an audio stream are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.
Ranked No. 19 three weeks ago by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper before losing eight of their next nine games, including getting swept at Long Beach State and CSUN, 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 was 15-18 with an 8.70 ERA.
Despite all the youth, Cal Poly has won eight of 13 weekend series, including victories over No. 14 UCLA and No. 19 Michigan and a sweep of No. 11 UC Santa Barbara. The Mustangs, who hit just .180 against Long Beach State and .177 against CSUN, exploded for a .337 mark in winning two of three games at home against UC Irvine last weekend. The Mustangs, who averaged just 2.9 runs and 7.2 hits in their previous 10 games, hit six doubles and five home runs, scoring 28 runs on 35 hits in the three games as the Anteater pitching staff compiled an 8.28 ERA.
CSU Bakersfield has won six straight after falling 25 games under the .500 mark at 9-34. The Roadrunners won the final two games of their series at Texas-Rio Grande Valley two weeks ago, beat UC Santa Barbara 5-4 on May 10 and swept Chicago State at home by scores of 6-5, 14-3 and 4-2 last weekend. CSU Bakersfield was 4-14 in Western Athletic Conference games before winning its last five WAC contests.
CSU Bakersfield returned 14 players, including five position starters and seven pitchers, off a team which finished 37-24-1 a year ago and placed third in the Western Athletic Conference standings with a 17-9-1 mark. The Roadrunners won the WAC tournament title and qualified for the NCAA regional hosted by UCLA, posting a 1-2 mark.
Topping the list of returning veterans are second baseman David Metzgar (.347, 17 doubles, 42 RBI, 10 steals in 2015), first baseman/pitcher Max Carter (.327, 10 doubles, 27 RBI) and designated hitter Joey Sanchez (.311, six doubles, 21 RBI). The pitching staff is led by Steven Gee (5-4, 2.55 ERA, two saves in 2015), Garrett Nimmo (4-3, 3.56 ERA, one save) and Max Carter (3-1, 3.90 ERA, two saves), all right-handers.
Coached by Bob Macaluso (first year, 15-34, Springfield College (Mass.) '87), CSU Bakersfield has a .260 team batting average through 49 games, led by center fielder Dustin Frailey (.384, 11 doubles, seven triples, three home runs, 21 RBI, 16 of 20 steals) and Carter (.285, six doubles, 23 RBI). Four other CSU Bakersfield starters are hitting between .262 and .284. The Roadrunners sport a 5.93 staff ERA and .966 fielding percentage with 65 errors in 49 games.
Coached by Bill Kernen since CSU Bakersfield launched its baseball program in 2009, the Roadrunners have been a member of the WAC since the 2013 campaign. Macaluso replaced Kernen on Aug. 31, 2015.
Macaluso was an assistant at CSU Bakersfield for the 2015 season, helping the Roadrunners win a school-record 37 games, capture the WAC tournament title and secure a spot in the NCAA regional at UCLA. Macaluso was an assistant coach for seven seasons (2008-14) at UC Irvine and at Cal State Los Angeles for one season (2007) where he helped the Golden Eagles win the 2007 Division II West Regional title and advance to the Division II College World Series in Montgomery, Ala. From 1998-2006, Macaluso was the head baseball coach at Muhlenberg College (Pa.), compiling a 144-56-3 record. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Melrose High School in Melrose, Mass. and then became the head varsity coach at Weston High School (Mass.) in 1993. He also had a two-year stint from 1996-98 as an assistant coach at Springfield College.
Cal Poly and CSU Bakersfield have met 21 times on the baseball field since the series began in 2009. The Mustangs hold a 15-6 advantage in the series, winning six of the first seven, capturing a pair of midweek games in both 2013 and 2014 and splitting last year's two meetings. Cal Poly earned an 8-4 triumph in this season's first meeting March 29 in Baggett Stadium. Senior right fielder John Schuknecht produced two singles and a triple while redshirt freshman right-hander Spencer Howard tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings for the win as Cal Poly rallied from an early 2-0 deficit. Larry Lee is 15-6 against CSU Bakersfield while Bob Macaluso is 0-1 against Cal Poly.
Tuesday's starting pitchers will be sophomore right-hander Jarred Zill (4-3, 2.86 ERA) for Cal Poly and junior right-hander Max Carter (0-7, 8.69 ERA) for CSU Bakersfield. Carter gave up three runs and five hits in 4 2/3 innings and suffered the loss in the first meeting.
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 in 2015), freshman right-hander Cam Schneider and, since early April, 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 50 games, junior Brett Barbier is Cal Poly's top hitter with a .365 average, 12 doubles, three home runs and 25 RBI, followed by freshman middle infielder Kyle Marinconz (.300, 13 doubles, 20 RBI), sophomore outfielder Josh George (.294, five doubles, 13 RBI) and senior right fielder John Schuknecht (.283, 13 doubles, six home runs, 43 RBI).
Barbier had a 16-game hitting streak and a 40-game streak of reaching base safely snapped April 30 by Long Beach State, also had a 12-game streak earlier this year and currently has a nine-game streak. Junior third baseman Michael Sanderson sports a .273 average with nine doubles and 28 RBI while freshman catcher Nick Meyer has a .272 mark with six doubles and 20 RBI. Meyer also has thrown out 21 would-be base stealers and has picked off 10 other runners.
Middle infielder Brett Binning (pictured above), who entered the UC Irvine series with a .188 average and one RBI on the year, went 5-for-9 with four RBI from the No. 9 spot in the batting order, lifting his average 43 points to 231.
Freshman center fielder Alex McKenna (Pacific series), hitting .271 with six home runs and 27 RBI, and Schuknecht (San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine) have earned Big West Field Player of the Week honors this season while Uelmen (Sacramento State) and Kyle Smith (UC Santa Barbara) have been named Big West Pitcher of the Week. McKenna went 8-for-14 and hit for the cycle in the San Jose State series, bumping his average up 41 points, while Schuknecht was 6-for-12 in the UC Santa Barbara series with five RBI and four runs scored. Schuknecht also hit two home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in eight runs in the UC Irvine series.
Cal Poly owns a .267 team batting average, has stolen 28 of 42 bases, sports a .962 fielding percentage with 72 errors in 50 games and has compiled a 3.98 staff ERA.
Cal Poly has produced 12 winning seasons since 2000. The Mustangs were 17-11 at home last season and have won 134 of their last 176 home games for a winning percentage of 76.1 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.
One year after capturing its first Big West title, 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 another Big West title.
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 (451-333-2), 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.
Playing all four games on the road this week, Cal Poly visits UC Riverside for a three-game Big West Conference series Friday through Sunday.