RIVERSIDE, Calif. – In his final start for Cal Poly, senior southpaw Trent Shelton earned his sixth victory and received offensive support from right fielder Bradlee Beesley and catcher Nick Meyer, among others, as the Mustangs defeated UC Riverside 4-2 in the opening contest of a season-ending three-game Big West Conference baseball series Thursday night at the Riverside Sports Complex.
Shelton (6-3) scattered eight hits over 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs with no walks and six strikeouts, and improving to 5-1 in Big West starts, as Cal Poly earned its fifth straight victory, improved to 13-9 in conference games, still tied for second place with UC Irvine, and at 28-27 climbed over the .500 mark overall for the first time since winning its season opener.
UC Riverside fell to 7-15 and 19-31.
All of the scoring in the game occurred in the first three innings.
Cal Poly sprinted out of the gate with three in the first. Alex McKenna doubled and came home on a triple by Kyle Marinconz. Meyer produced the first of his three singles, driving home Marinconz, and Beesley hit the first of his two run-scoring doubles, driving home Meyer.
After UC Riverside scored twice in the bottom of the second on Cody Sporrer's two-run single, Cal Poly tacked on an insurance run in the third on Beesley's second RBI double of the game.
The two teams' offensive output was held in check the rest of the way.
Cal Poly managed just two singles and a pair of walks over the final six frames while UC Riverside had just two baserunners during that span, one on a wild pitch after a strikeout and the other on a leadoff single in the eighth.
Shelton (pictured at right) struck out the next batter before giving way to fourth-year junior Austin Dondanville (pictured above), who earned his third save by striking out three of the five batters he faced.
The loss went to Matt Hardy (0-2) who in his first start gave up all four runs and eight hits over three innings with no walks and five strikeouts. Hardy had pitched just 5 1/3 innings for the season prior to Thursday's start.
Meyer compiled his fifth three-hit game and 19th multiple-hit contest of the year, lifting his average to a team-leading .343. McKenna added a double and single for his 23rd multiple-hit game of the season, raising his average to .341.
Beesley and Marinconz each produced a pair of hits as Cal Poly outhit UC Riverside 10-8. Beesley also made a pair of diving catches in foul territory for the Mustangs.
Shortstop Colby Schultz and first baseman Tony Gudino each had two hits for the Highlanders. Left fielder Dean Miller added a double.
Second game of the series will be played Friday night at 6 o'clock with Cal Poly freshman right-hander Darren Nelson (4-4, 5.14 ERA) to face UC Riverside sophomore right-hander Trenton Toplikar (6-3, 4.22 ERA).
The series and season finale for both teams is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Pluim