SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (2-6, 0-0 Big West), which snapped a six-game losing streak with an 11-7 victory at Santa Clara on Tuesday, wraps up a season-opening 11-game road trip with a three-game series Friday through Sunday at San Diego State (5-4, 0-0 Mountain West).
First pitches at Tony Gwynn Stadium (cap.: 3,000) against the Aztecs are 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. All three games will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 1280 with Eric Burdick providing the play-by-play. Links for live stats and an audio stream are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.
Despite having 25 freshmen and sophomores on the roster a year ago, including as many as six true freshmen and a community college transfer in the starting lineup, Cal Poly posted a 32-25 mark in 2016, won nine of 15 weekend series, including victories over No. 14 UCLA and No. 19 Michigan and a sweep against College World Series participant UC Santa Barbara.
Eight position players who started at least 27 games a year ago are on the 2017 roster and the pitching rotation features all four returning starters off the 2016 squad, including weekend starters Erich Uelmen (5-3, 3.68 ERA), Kyle Smith (6-6, 3.64 ERA) and Jarred Zill (4-3, 2.79 ERA). Sophomore right-hander Cam Schneider also returns after starting seven games a year ago.
Despite the presence of a large number of veterans, the Mustangs have struggled in all facets of the game. The pitching staff's ERA is 6.00 with opposing batters hitting a robust .301. Defensively, Cal Poly committed five errors in the middle game at Pacific, three more in the season opener against Cal and sports a .951 fielding percentage with 14 errors in eight games.
And the offense struggled mightily last week, hitting .187 in four games and scoring just six runs in the last five contests. During one stretch, Cal Poly failed to score in 25 consecutive innings, a school Division I record. Pacific blanked the Mustangs 2-0 on Friday and 16-0 on Saturday, marking just the fourth time in Cal Poly's 23-year Division I history that the Mustangs were shut out in back-to-back games.
The Mustangs snapped a six-game losing streak Tuesday night with an 11-7 triumph at Santa Clara, producing 11 hits including four for extra bases. The Broncos helped the Mustangs' cause by issuing 13 walks, hitting three batters and committing four errors. Bradlee Beesley set a school Division I mark by walking five times.
Only three Mustangs are hitting above the .300 mark to date. Junior outfielder Josh George is off to a 10-for-29 start (.345) with five doubles while senior designated hitter Kevin Morgan (pictured above) sports a .333 average (seven of 21). Sophomore center fielder Alex McKenna is hitting .310 (9-for-29).
San Diego State is coming off a 21-38 campaign, including an 11-19 mark for sixth place in the Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs return 19 lettermen, including seven of the nine position starters and eight pitchers (four starters). Third-year head coach Mark Martinez has 15 newcomers on the squad this season.
San Diego State's top returnees this spring are outfielder Tyler Adkison (.302, 15 doubles, six home runs, 40 RBI in 2016), second baseman Alan Trejo (.305, 35 RBI) and second baseman/outfielder Justin Wylie (.305, 13 doubles, 39 RBI). In addition, shortstop Danny Sheehan, who was a redshirt in 2016, hit .307 two years ago with 17 doubles, six home runs and 45 RBI.
Five pitchers with over 60 innings a year ago also return, along with the 2015 closer in CJ Saylor (3-3, 5.02 ERA, 11 saves), a redshirt in 2016.
The Aztecs are off to a 5-4 start, winning two of three games against Pacific, losing two of three contests in the Tony Gwynn Classic and, in midweek games, defeating Cal State Fullerton and falling to UC Irvine and Long Beach State. San Diego State sports a .299 team batting average with a 4.61 staff ERA and a .979 fielding percentage with seven errors in nine games.
Adkison is hitting .429 to date with two doubles and a pair of RBI while right fielder David Hensley has a .391 mark with three doubles and five RBI. Five other Aztec regulars are hitting .300 or better.
Coached by Mark Martinez (third season, 68-65, Mesa State '84), San Diego State claimed three straight Mountain West Conference tournament titles from 2013-15 and has earned NCAA regional berths 12 times since 1979, including four over the last eight seasons. The Aztecs, who moved into the Mountain West Conference in 2000, have placed first twice (2002, 2004) and also claimed seven Western Athletic Conference crowns and nine California Collegiate Athletic Association titles. San Diego State moved to Division I in 1970.
Martinez assumed the head coaching position at San Diego State in 2015 after nine years as an Aztec assistant coach under the late Tony Gwynn. He has had 37 players drafted in his time at San Diego State, and had six of those draft picks make the major leagues (Stephen Strasburg, Addison Reed, Justin Masterson, Bruce Billings, Quintin Berry and Lance Zawadski). In addition, Martinez has helped guide 41 Aztecs to All-Mountain West honors and six Aztecs to All-American accolades. Martinez was an assistant at the University of New Mexico for 17 years and at his alma mater, Mesa State, for five seasons. Martinez played shortstop at Mesa State from 1982-84, earning all-conference and all-district honors as a senior.
Cal Poly and San Diego State are meeting this weekend for the first time since the 2012 season. The Aztecs lead the series, which began in 1946, 61-34, but Cal Poly won three of five meetings in 2012. Larry Lee is 7-5 against San Diego State while Mark Martinez is 0-0 against Cal Poly.
Cal Poly's 2017 roster is led by seven returning position starters and eight pitchers who tossed 20 or more innings in 2016.
Outfielder Josh George (.306, seven doubles, 16 RBI) and catcher Nick Meyer (.301, seven doubles, 21 RBI) both hit above the .300 mark a year ago. Meyer was a second-team All-Big West selection and also was named Big West Freshman Field Player of the Year after picking off a Big West-leading 10 runners and threw out 22 would-be base stealers, second in the conference.
Middle infielder Kyle Marinconz (.284, 15 doubles, 25 RBI), an All-Big West honorable mention, joined Meyer on Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American Team. Third baseman Michael Sanderson (.296, 12 doubles, 33 RBI), outfielder Kevin Morgan (.269, 15 RBI), outfielder Alex McKenna (.261, six home runs, 27 RBI) and shortstop Brett Binning (.225) also return.
A pair of true freshmen -- shortstop Bradlee Beesley (.407, 19 RBI at San Leandro High School) and outfielder Scott Ogrin (.412, 18 RBI at Valencia High School) -- were in the starting lineup on Opening Day along with community college transfer Elijah Skipps (Cypress College) at first base.
A year ago Cal Poly earned its 14th winning season since 2000 and reached the 30-win mark for the 11th time this century. The Mustangs were 23-8 at home last season and have won 134 of their last 176 home games for a winning percentage of 76.1 percent.
Cal Poly, which earned NCAA regional berths in 2009, 2013 and 2014, has finished fourth or higher in the Big West 12 times in its last 14 seasons, including back-to-back fourth-place finishes after capturing its first Big West championship in 2014.
Lee (457-342-2) 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. Lee's previous 14 clubs at Cal Poly have averaged 32.5 wins per season.
In addition to the four games already played against Pac-12 schools, Cal Poly's 2017 schedule also includes a three-game series at UCLA in late April. The schedule features 14 games against 2016 NCAA regional qualifiers, a 12-game home stand in March and 28 contests in all inside Baggett Stadium. All 56 Mustang games this spring will be played in the Golden State.
Next week, the Mustangs open a 12-game home stand with a Tuesday night contest against CSU Bakersfield and a three-game weekend series against Loyola Marymount.