Posted: Feb 18, 2019
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (0-3 overall, 0-0 Big West), which opened its 2019 baseball season by losing all three games of a series at Oklahoma over the weekend, wraps up a four-game road trip Tuesday night against CSU Bakersfield (2-2 overall, 0-0 Western Athletic) in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs and the Roadrunners of third-year head coach Jeremy Beard square off at 6 p.m. inside Hardt Field (cap.: 2,000). The game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 1280 with Chris Sylvester providing the play-by-play. Links for live stats and audio and video streams are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.
CSU Bakersfield is coming off a 21-36 campaign, including a 10-14 mark for sixth place in the Western Athletic Conference. CSU Bakersfield launched its baseball program in 2009 and the Roadrunners, members of the WAC since the 2013 campaign, will join the Big West in time for the 2020-21 academic year.
CSU Bakersfield split four games in the Angels College Classic last week in Tempe, Arizona, defeating Cal 4-3 and Ball State 7-6 while falling to Pepperdine 11-0 and Ball State 10-6. Second baseman Will Picketts went 5-for-10 in the quartet of games with two RBI while first baseman Jesse Rowley was 5-for-17 (.294) with two doubles, one home run and four RBI. The Roadrunners hit .237 as a team while the pitching staff compiled a 5.00 ERA.
Beard took over for Bob Macaluso in December 2016. Macaluso had replaced Bill Kernen as head coach on Aug. 31, 2015, but coached just one season. Beard coached at Portland in 2014 and 2015 before becoming pitching coach of the Roadrunners for the 2016 campaign. He also has coached at Central Catholic High School (1998-2001) in Portland, Ore., Columbia Basin College (Wash.) from 2001-10 and Western Nevada College in 2011 and 2012. Beard was a pitcher at Oregon State, graduating in 1996.
Cal Poly and CSU Bakersfield have met 26 times on the baseball field since the series began in 2009. The Mustangs hold a 20-6 advantage in the series, winning six of the first seven and capturing a pair of midweek games in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (6-0 at Baggett Stadium, 11-8 at Hardt Field, rallying from an 8-0 deficit). Lee is 20-6 against CSU Bakersfield while Beard is 0-4 against Cal Poly.
Among the 13 returning lettermen on the Roadrunners' roster this year are seven position starters and six pitchers, led by outfielder Jassen Oliver (.287, 22 RBI in 2018), first baseman/outfielder Sergio Robles (.283, 15 RBI) and catcher/first baseman Ryan Koch (.257, 33 RBI).
Lee welcomed back 18 letter winners this spring, including five position players who made 25 or more starts in 2018, and eight pitchers, including three who have made 10 or more career starts.
The list of veterans is led by junior center fielder Bradlee Beesley, who hit .277 with 12 doubles and 33 RBI a year ago, was a second-team All-Big West selection in 2017 after hitting .305 and also had a solid Cape Cod League season with Yarmouth-Dennis last summer, hitting .368.
Also returning are sophomore first baseman Tate Samuelson (.280, five home runs, 38 RBI in 2018), senior shortstop Dylan Doherty and sophomore third baseman Nick DiCarlo, both .226 hitters a year ago. Junior utility player Scott Ogrin, who hit .266 with 26 RBI last spring, will miss at least the first three weeks of the 2019 season with an injury.
The pitching corps will be led by sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (5-4, 4.79 ERA in 2018), senior righty Jarred Zill (0-1, 3.00 ERA in five starts a year ago), who missed all of 2017 and most of 2018 due to injury, and junior right-hander Bobby Ay (1-6, 5.40 ERA in 2017, made just one appearance in 2018 before he was sidelined with an injury). The starting rotation also could include sophomore righty Taylor Dollard (3-0, 2.43 ERA, three saves in 2018) and freshman southpaw Chase Watkins.
Cal Poly fell to Oklahoma 4-1, 9-3 and 5-2 amid temperatures in the 30s and low 40s with winds at around 20 miles per hour, dropping the wind chill factor into the 20s. Junior center fielder Bradlee Beesley went 7-for-12 at the plate with two doubles and five singles, knocking in three runs. He is the Big West leader in hitting one weekend into the season with a .583 average.
The offense produced a .248 batting average, the pitching staff allowed 4.88 earned runs per contest and the defense committed eight errors, including five in the Saturday contest. The Mustangs could not get the key hits when needed, leaving 24 runners on the basepaths in the series.
Tuesday's pitching matchup features freshman right-hander Bryan Woo for Cal Poly and sophomore righty Davonte Butler for CSU Bakersfield. Woo is a graduate of Alameda High School while Butler attended San Benito High School in Hollister.
A year ago, the Mustangs were No. 1 in the Big West in team hitting, on-base percentage, hits, doubles, triples, walks and turning double plays. Twenty of Cal Poly's 24 Big West games were decided by four or fewer runs. The Mustangs defeated UC Davis 16-0 and the three remaining games were six-run decisions, Cal Poly winning twice, and the Mustangs won six of 13 weekend series, sweeping Dartmouth, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside.
Cal Poly will play 17 games against 2018 NCAA Regional participants this spring, has a 12-game home stand in late March and early April, 30 home games in all and will play seven contests against Pac-12 schools — three-game series against Cal and College World Series participant Washington and a single game at Stanford. The Mustangs' first three series on the road this season — at Oklahoma, Washington and Baylor — all earned regional berths a year ago along with Cal State Fullerton, Saint Mary's and Stanford.
Cal Poly has had just three losing seasons since 2000 and has reached the 30-win mark 12 times this century. The Mustangs have won 168 of their last 231 home games for a 72.7 winning percentage.
Cal Poly, which earned NCAA regional berths in 2009, 2013 and 2014, captured its first Big West championship in 2014 and has five second-place finishes, four thirds and six fourths since becoming a member of the conference in 1997. Cal Poly has finished in the top five of the Big West standings 14 times in Lee's previous 16 seasons with the Mustangs. Cal State Fullerton is the only other Big West team that can make the same claim.
While all 56 Mustang games in 2017 were played in the Golden State, Cal Poly played four games in a tournament at Surprise, Ariz., visited Nebraska for a four-game series and traveled to Hawai'i for a three-game Big West series in 2018. In addition to Oklahoma, the Mustangs make out-of-state trips to Washington and Baylor this spring.
Over the last seven seasons from 2012-18, Cal Poly has won 240 games, the third-highest total among the 24 California schools with Division I programs. Averaging 35 wins per season during those seven campaigns, the victory total is eighth among 46 schools in the NCAA's West Region. In addition, from 2012-14, Cal Poly averaged 41 wins a year with 123 victories, more than any other Division I team in California, and the Mustangs have averaged 32.5 victories per season under Lee's guidance.
Lee (513-394-2) reached the 500-victory milestone last April 20 with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 513 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State's Bob Bennett (547) and Lee's 212 conference wins also are No. 2 in the Big West behind Long Beach State's Dave Snow (218).
Lee surpassed Berdy Harr (297-249-6 from 1973-83) as Cal Poly's winningest head baseball coach during the Pacific series in 2011. Lee earned 460 wins in 16 seasons at Cuesta College and notched his 460th Mustang victory on March 13, 2017 against Gonzaga. With 973 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee enters the 2019 campaign just 27 victories shy of the 1,000 mark.
Cal Poly kicks off its 30-game home schedule this weekend with a three-game series Friday through Sunday against Cal. The Mustangs and Roadrunners play their midweek rematch next Tuesday at 6 p.m. inside Baggett Stadium, concluding a four-game home stand.