Posted: Feb 25, 2019
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (1-6 overall, 0-0 Big West), swept by Oklahoma and Cal during the first two weekends of play, plays a rematch with Central Coast rival and future Big West Conference member CSU Bakersfield (2-6 overall, 0-0 Western Athletic) on Tuesday inside Baggett Stadium.
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs and the Roadrunners of third-year head coach Jeremy Beard square off at 6 p.m. 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 two weeks ago in Tempe, Arizona, defeating Cal 4-3 and Ball State 7-6 while falling to Pepperdine 11-0 and Ball State 10-6.
Following a 7-1 loss to Cal Poly last Tuesday night in Bakersfield, the Roadrunners were swept by San Francisco last weekend at Benedetti Diamond, scoring just three runs in 2-0, 3-2 and 12-1 setbacks. CSU Bakersfield hit just .198 in the series and used 14 pitchers in the three games.
Catcher Jake Ortega is the lone Roadrunner with a batting average above .300, hitting .375 with three doubles. CSU Bakersfield is hitting just .208 as a team with a 5.09 staff ERA, three steals in six attempts and a .960 fielding percentage with 12 errors in eight games.
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 27 times on the baseball field since the series began in 2009. The Mustangs hold a 21-6 advantage in the series, winning six of the first seven, the last seven contests and capturing a pair of midweek games in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Cal Poly rallied from an 8-0 deficit to beat the Roadunners 11-8 last year at Hardt Field. Lee is 21-6 against CSU Bakersfield while Beard is 0-5 against Cal Poly.
Last Tuesday, freshman right-hander Bryan Woo and three relievers combined on a three-hitter and 13 strikeouts as Cal Poly entered the win column for the first time in 2019 with the 7-1 win over CSU Bakersfield. The Mustangs scored three runs in the third inning, added a single run in the fourth and broke the game open with three markers in the eighth frame before turning things over to the pitching staff the rest of the way in the non-conference game at Hardt Field. The host Roadrunners were retired in order five times in the first seven innings. While two Cal Poly pitchers combined for a baker's dozen strikeouts, six CSU Bakersfield pitchers issued 13 walks. In four-plus innings, Woo struck out seven and walked just one, retiring the first nine CSU Bakersfield batters of the game in his first collegiate start. The Alameda High School graduate scattered three singles.
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).
Tuesday's pitching matchup features freshman southpaw Chase Watkins for Cal Poly and senior right-hander Isaiah Moten for CSU Bakersfield. Watkins is a graduate of St. Francis High School in Watsonville while Moten attended Temecula Valley High School.
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. Beesley went 7-for-12 at the plate with two doubles and five singles, knocking in three runs. The Mustangs could not get the key hits when needed, leaving 24 runners on the basepaths in the series.
Last weekend, Cal Poly dropped 10-2, 5-4 and 5-3 decisions to Cal inside Baggett Stadium. The Mustangs and Bears were tied 2-2 after two innings Friday and held leads of 4-2 after five innings Saturday and 3-0 after seven innings Sunday, but 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner Andrew Vaughn (two-run home run in third inning Friday, two-run single in seventh inning Saturday) and catcher Korey Lee (two-run double in eighth inning, two-run single in ninth inning Sunday) keyed Cal's comebacks.
Beesley, 7-for-12 in the Oklahoma series and 6-for-13 against Cal, remains the top hitter in the Big West with his .517 batting average with three doubles and seven RBI. Second baseman Connor Gurnik is hitting .375 and right fielder Elijah Greene .300.
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 10 contests against Pac-12 schools — three-game series against Cal and USC at home and versus College World Series participant Washington and a single game against Stanford on the road. The Mustangs' first three series on the road this season — at Oklahoma, Washington and Baylor — are against teams that 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 (514-397-2) reached the 500-victory milestone last April 20 with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 514 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 974 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee is just 26 victories shy of the 1,000 mark.
Following Tuesday's game, ending a four-game home stand, Cal Poly heads back out on the road for a three-game weekend series at Washington.
Photo above of Cal Poly sophomore right fielder Elijah Greene courtesy of Owen Main | www.fansmanship.com