NORMAN, Okla. – The Cal Poly baseball team left Baggett Stadium in pouring rain early Thursday morning. The Mustangs arrived at San Francisco International Airport in another downpour.
But when Cal Poly arrived safely in Oklahoma late Thursday afternoon, the Mustangs were greeted with 70-degree weather, plenty of sunshine and a light breeze.
Such may not be the case this weekend when the Mustangs open their 2019 baseball season against the Oklahoma Sooners inside L. Dale Mitchell Stadium. Friday's weather forecast calls for 40 degrees and winds from 10-20 miles per hour. The forecast is dry, however, for all three games of the series.
Cal Poly conducted a one-hour practice at the 3,180-seat facility on the Oklahoma University campus on Thursday night. The baseball home of the Sooners is spacious, with the gaps 385 feet away from home plate and center field 410 feet away, and there is no dirt whatsoever. Everything, including the mound, infield and batters boxes, is covered with artificial turf.
Cal Poly and Oklahoma are playing each other in baseball for the first time this weekend. The Sooners will play at Baggett Stadium in 2020.
On the mound Friday, with first pitch slated for 1 p.m. Pacific, will be fifth-year Mustang senior Jarred Zill against Oklahoma sophomore righty Cade Cavalli.
Zill, 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA in his first two seasons at Cal Poly, missed most of the last two years due to injury. Cavalli will be making his third career start for the Sooners after a freshman campaign in which he was 3-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 11 appearances.
Oklahoma won national titles in 1951 and 1994 and has made 10 College World Series appearances, the last in 2010. The Sooners were 38-25 and qualified for the regionals a year ago under first-year head coach Skip Johnson.
All three games of the series will be aired on ESPN Radio 1280. Saturday's contest starts at noon with Sunday's finale set for a 10 a.m. start.
In other Mustang baseball news:
• Cal Poly is projected to finish fifth in the Big West Conference standings, according to D1Baseball.com.
The internet site that covers Division I baseball and compiles a weekly national poll, projects Cal State Fullerton to claim the title, followed by UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and the Mustangs, who have finished second each of the last two seasons.
Hawai'i, CSUN, UC Riverside and UC Davis round out the Big West baseball table, according to D1Baseball.com.
Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine will be the only teams qualifying for an NCAA regional, the staff of D1Baseball.com feels.
In addition, UC Santa Barbara outfielder Tommy Jew is projected to capture Big West player of the year honors, with right-hander Andre Pallante tabbed as the pitcher of the year.
UC Irvine third baseman Brandon Lewis is projected to be the Big West newcomer of the year while Cal State Fullerton catcher/designated hitter Kameron Guangorena will be the freshman of the year, the staff predicts.
Other D1Baseball.com projections:
• Junior center fielder Bradlee Beesley will be the eighth player from the Big West drafted in June (Pallante is No. 1).
• Sophomore right-hander Taylor Dollard will be the eighth player from the Big West drafted in 2020 (righty Tanner Bibee of Cal State Fullerton is No. 1).
• D1Baseball.com writer Eric Sorenson pens, "The good news for the Cal Poly Mustangs is that they return a ton of pitching from a year ago, including weekend starters Darren Nelson (5-4, 4.79) and Michael Clark (4-6, 5.90), a sophomore and senior respectively who both are primed to turn a corner this season.
"The bad news for the Mustangs is that the best offense in the Big West from a year ago saw the top six batting averages move on from the program. The infield could be a strength as 1B Tate Samuelson (.280/.344/.409 with five home runs and a team-best 38 RBI), 2B Scott Ogrin (.266/.343/.442), SS Dylan Doherty (.226) and 3B Nick DiCarlo (.226) should improve the .964 fielding percentage.
"Keep an eye on center fielder Bradlee Beesley (.277/.327/.442, 8 SBs), who is a talented Cape Cod League alum. At 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Beesley generates surprising bat speed and should rack up doubles. The coaches have also raved about his leadership skills."
• D1Baseball.com also has compiled its national Prospects List for the 2019 MLB Draft. Mustang senior right-hander Jarred Zill is projected as No. 70 on a nationwide list of college seniors while Beesley is No. 348 on the online site's list of Top 350 Prospects regardless of class, including community college players.