LONG BEACH, Calif. – A dropped third strike with two outs and one runner on base in the seventh inning allowed Cal Poly to extend the inning and the Mustangs scored three times to shatter a 2-2 tie en route to a 6-3 victory over No. 8 Long Beach State in a Big West Conference baseball game Saturday afternoon at Blair Field.
Kyle Marinconz swung and missed the pitch delivered by Eli Villalobos, but the ball eluded Dirtbag catcher David Banuelos, who hit a two-run homer earlier in the game, for a passed ball and Marinconz reached first base safely.
With the win, Cal Poly snapped a six-game Blair Field losing streak dating back to 2014, evened its Big West series against the Dirtbags at a game apiece and improved to 21-24 overall and 9-5 in conference games.
Long Beach State fell to 29-15-1 and 14-3, still in first place in the Big West.
The Dirtbags jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning on the home run to left by Banuelos before sophomore right-hander Spencer Howard settled into a groove, working into the eighth on the mound while his teammates battled back.
Cal Poly scored a run in the third on a home run by Scott Ogrin, his fourth of the year, and another in the sixth on Sanderson's second home run in as many weekends, tying the game at 2-2.
The Mustangs took the lead in the seventh. With two outs and the bases empty, Bradlee Beesley walked and Marinconz reached on the passed ball following the strikeout, setting the stage for the two-run double by Sanderson and RBI single by Meyer.
Cal Poly added an insurance run in the ninth. Alex McKenna led off with a double to right-center field, advanced to third on Beesley's sacrifice bunt and came home on a sacrifice fly to deep center field by Marinconz.
Long Beach State answered with a two-out RBI double by Laine Huffman before Michael Clark secured the final out for his ninth save.
Howard (5-1) (pictured at left) tossed seven-plus innings for the win, allowing two runs and six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Clark went two innings for the save.
The loss went to Eli Villalobos (3-1), the third of five pitchers used by Dirtbag head coach Troy Buckley. Villalobos allowed the three runs, all unearned, in the seventh inning. Long Beach State starter John Sheaks surrendered two runs and four hits over 5 2/3 innings, leaving the game with the score tied at 2-2.
Each team produced seven hits. Sanderson drove in three runs with his double and home run while McKenna added a single and double. Banuelos was the lone Long Beach State hitter with two hits.
For the sixth straight weekend, Cal Poly will play a rubber match in the final game of a weekend series. Sunday's contest starts at 1 o'clock with Cal Poly to start sophomore right-hander Bobby Ay (1-4, 4.89 ERA) on the mound, facing Long Beach State senior right-hander Dave Smith (5-1, 1.65 ERA).
Photos courtesy of Jack Duffy