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Saint Mary’s Earns Split of Four-Game Series at Cal Poly With 8-2 Win

Saint Mary’s Earns Split of Four-Game Series at Cal Poly With 8-2 Win
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Third baseman Bryce Willits was 5-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and Tyler Thornton improved to 4-0, striking out eight, as Saint Mary's salvaged a split of its four-game baseball series at Cal Poly with an 8-2 victory Sunday afternoon.
 
Saint Mary's, which scored two runs in the first inning, three more in the third frame and never looked back, improved to 15-9 with Sunday's win, overcoming a walk-off loss Tuesday at Nevada and 6-2 and 8-3 setbacks in the first two games of this weekend's series with victories in Saturday's nightcap and Sunday's finale.
 
Cal Poly will take a 9-13 mark into its Big West Conference opener Friday night against CSUN inside Baggett Stadium.
 
Cal Poly scored single runs in the first and fourth innings and had other chances to get back into the game, but stranded five runners in scoring position and nine overall for the game.
 
Tate Samuelson (pictured below, at right), who was 7-for-14 in the series with three RBI, singled to drive in the run in the first inning. Samuelson drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and came home on Noah Taylor's RBI double to right field.
 
By that time, the Gaels already had a 5-2 lead and they added three more runs in the final three innings to pull away.
 
The Mustangs scored 14 runs on 22 hits in the first two games of the series, but were held to just six hits in each of the final two games, scoring only three times.
 
Thornton, a freshman right-hander from Solana Beach in San Diego County and a graduate of Santa Fe Christian, scattered five hits over six innings for the win Sunday, walking three and striking out eight while allowing both Mustang runs. The first five outs he recorded in the game were strikeouts.
 
Michael Hobbs earned a three-inning save with no runs, one hit and two walks, striking out five more Mustangs.
 
Sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (1-4) absorbed the loss, giving up five runs and six hits in 2 1/3 innings with three walks and no strikeouts.
 
Head coach Larry Lee used five relievers. Senior Michael Clark was the most effective with two scoreless innings.
 
Taylor and designated hitter Elijah Greene both collected two of Cal Poly's six hits.
 
In addition to Willits' five hits, Saint Mary's also received three hits from Eddie Haus and two each from Joe Vranesh and Kevin Milam. Milam hit the only home run of the series, a two-run shot to left field in the eighth inning Sunday.
 
Taylor was 4-for-11 (.364) in the series while Greene was 5-for-18 (.278). The Mustangs hit .256 in four games against the Gaels and compiled a 4.25 staff ERA.
 
The series versus CSUN begins with a 6 p.m. contest Friday, followed by a 2 o'clock start Saturday (due to a planned Pacific Gas & Electric power outage) and a 1 p.m. finale Sunday.
 
Photos above of Willie Cano (at top of page) and Tate Samuelson (at right) courtesy of Owen Main | www.fansmanship.com