SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Junior shortstop/designated hitter Kyle Marinconz smashed a three-run double down the right-field line to break the game open as Cal Poly completed a sweep of its three-game Big West Conference baseball series against UC Santa Barbara with a 9-3 victory Sunday afternoon on Senior Day inside Baggett Stadium.
Cal Poly led 1-0 when sophomore second baseman Scott Ogrin doubled down the left-field line to knock in the second run of the game in the fourth inning. A single and a walk loaded the bases for Marinconz (pictured below at left), who cleared the sacks with his team-leading 14th double of the year on a 0-0 pitch from Chris Clements.
That was more than enough for junior right-hander Michael Clark (4-6), who in his longest outing of the year allowed three runs and four hits over 7 1/3 innings with four walks and five strikeouts. Clark, who threw 117 pitches, had a one-hit shutout through six innings.
With the win, Cal Poly, 5-3 and 4-2 winner over the Gauchos in the first two games of the series, evened its record for the third time this season, following 1-1 and 19-19 marks with a current 27-27 record. In posting their first 4-0 week of the season, the Mustangs are 12-9 for a second-place tie with UC Irvine in the Big West. CSUN is fourth at 13-11 while Long Beach State fell into fifth place at 11-10 after losing to Hawai'i 4-1.
UC Santa Barbara, which has lost nine straight to Cal Poly, fell to 24-27-1 for the season and 8-13 in Big West games.
"We just play well against UCSB," said Mustang head coach Larry Lee, now 40-23 in 16 seasons against the Gauchos. "They are a very similar program to ours; we just played well."
Cal State Fullerton clinched the outright Big West title and an automatic berth in the NCAA regionals with an 11-4 triumph over CSUN.
Cal Poly's bottom five hitters in the batting order were 11-for-19 with seven runs scored and six RBI on Sunday.
Sophomore right fielder Bradlee Beesley and senior left fielder Josh George both went 3-for-4 at the plate – Beesley's team-leading sixth three-hit game of the season – George driving in two runs and Beesley one.
Ogrin and junior catcher Nick Meyer (pictured at right) both added two hits -- Meyer extending his hitting streak to 16 games -- as Cal Poly outhit UCSB for the first time in the series, 14-5. Both of Meyer's hits were doubles.
Gaucho center fielder Tommy Jew, who robbed Meyer of another double with a diving catch in the fourth inning, singled twice and designated hitter Tevin Mitchell added a double.
The loss was charged to Clements (1-2) as the junior right-hander surrendered five runs and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings with one walk and two strikeouts.
Cal Poly finished its home schedule with a 19-11 mark and, in 21 conference games, has hit .296 with a 4.43 staff ERA. Seven of its 13 errorless games on defense this season are in Big West contests.
"Since conference began, we've cleaned up our defense and have swung the bats pretty well," said Lee. "We've had our ups and downs on the mound due to a lot of different things that have happened, leaving us with a lack of options."
Nearly all of Cal Poly's 21 Big West games played so far have been decided by three runs or fewer. Aside from one 16-run win and winning two of the three games decided by six runs, the rest have been close.
"Every game we've played in conference, we have been in the game," said Lee. "There hasn't been a game in conference where we have not had a chance to win. That's a sign of a team playing well."
A pair of RBI singles by George gave Cal Poly a 1-0 lead in the second and a 9-2 advantage in the seventh. Sophomore shortstop Dylan Doherty singled to drive in two runs in the fifth for a 7-0 Mustang lead and Beesley contributed a run-scoring double in the seventh.
Trailing 7-0, UCSB scored twice in the seventh on a groundout and an RBI single by right fielder Michael McAdoo. The Gauchos added their final run in the eighth on Mitchell's RBI double.
For the series, George was 6-for-10, all singles, with two RBI while Beesley finished 5-for-10 with a double and three RBI. Meyer contributed four hits, three of them doubles, and a pair of RBI.
Shelton and George were two of six Mustang seniors honored in a pregame ceremony. Austin Dondanville secured four outs in relief of Clark and Kyle Smith threw one pitch to get the final out of the game. First baseman Elijah Skipps singled in four at-bats while pinch-hitter Colby Barrick grounded out in his only plate appearance.
The Mustangs, who have won 11 of their last 15 Big West games following a 1-5 conference start, have won five of 12 weekend series so far this season, including sweeps against Dartmouth, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara. Cal Poly also claimed series against UC Davis and Hawai'i and split four games versus Pacific.
Cal Poly wraps up the 2018 season next Thursday through Saturday at UC Riverside with goals of its second straight second-place finish in the Big West and an overall mark above the .500 mark.
Photos courtesy of Alexander Bohlen