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Cal Poly to Host Santa Clara for Midweek Game on Tuesday Night

Cal Poly to Host Santa Clara for Midweek Game on Tuesday Night
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (12-13 overall, 0-0 Big West), which swept its Big West Conference-opening series against CSUN over the weekend, continues its 12-game home stand by hosting Santa Clara (4-21 overall, 0-6 West Coast) on Tuesday night inside Baggett Stadium. Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs and the Broncos of second-year head coach Rusty Filter square off at 6 p.m.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio (1280 AM and 101.7 FM) 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
Cal Poly has won 10 of its last 14 games after a 2-9 start, sweeping Columbia in a four-game series, splitting four games versus Saint Mary's and opening Big West play with 2-1, 3-1 and 4-2 victories over CSUN last weekend inside Baggett Stadium.
Coming off a 26-26 campaign, including a 12-15 mark for a sixth-place tie in the  West Coast Conference, Santa Clara returned 20 letter winners, including four position starters and 11 pitchers. Top returnees are second baseman Jason Dicochea (.323, 25 RBI in 2018), catcher Jake MacNichols (.226, 32 RBI) and outfielder Matt Smithwick (.225, 5 home runs, 15 RBI). The pitching staff is led by right-handers Travis Howard (3-2, 5.03 ERA in 2018), Freddie Erlandson (4-5, 5.18 ERA) and Michael Praszker (2-2, 4.09 ERA).
Coached by Rusty Filter (second season, 30-47, San Diego State '90), Santa Clara has a .215 team batting average through 25 games. The Broncos have stolen 18 of 32 bases, sport a 4.38 staff ERA and have compiled a .957 fielding percentage with 42 errors in 25 games.
Santa Clara opened its 2019 season by losing all three games of a series against San Jose State, then won three of four games, two versus Washington State and one against CSU Bakersfield. The Broncos, however, have lost 17 of their last 18 games to fall to 4-21. Lone win during the stretch was a 9-0 shutout against UC Davis on March 26. Santa Clara was swept by Loyola Marymount and San Francisco in West Coast Conference series.
Santa Clara's top hitters to date are Dicochea (.255, 12 RBI), left fielder Cam Allie (.253) and designated hitter Matt Jew (.247, four home runs, 12 RBI).
Scheduled to start on the mound Tuesday night for Cal Poly is junior right-hander Craig Colen, making his first appearance of the season (pictured at left). Santa Clara will start junior right-hander Locke Bernhardt (1-0, 2.91 ERA).
Santa Clara has finished first in the West Coast Conference four times, the last in 2001. The Broncos are in their 137th year of competition in baseball, earning 2,277 wins with 12 NCAA regional appearances (the last in 1997) and one trip to the College World Series (1962).
Filter was pitching coach under Mark Marquess at Stanford for eight seasons before taking over for Dan O'Brien at Santa Clara in June 2017. He helped the Cardinal reach the NCAA Tournament five times, including three trips to the Super Regional, and developed 20 pitchers who were selected in the MLB Draft. 
In 16 seasons as an assistant coach under Jim Dietz and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn at his alma mater, Filter mentored 58 draft picks, including two top overall picks in the Major League draft, Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and Mark Appel in 2013. Filter played at San Diego State from 1987-90, originally as a catcher before moving to the mound, and was drafted by Toronto in 1990.
Cal Poly and Santa Clara have played 87 baseball games against each other since the series began in 1956. The Broncos hold a 45-42 advantage, winning both contests a year ago by scores of 10-7 and 4-3. Cal Poly won both meetings in 2017 —11-7 at Santa Clara and 15-0 in San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly has won eight of the last 12 meetings. Larry Lee is 19-17 against Santa Clara while Rusty Filter is 2-0 against Cal Poly.
Cal Poly's first two wins of 2019 were a pair of midweek triumphs against Central California rival and future Big West Conference member CSU Bakersfield. The Mustangs swept a four-game series versus Columbia, earned a 3-1 win in the middle game of the Baylor series and won the first two games of their series against Saint Mary's before dropping the last two contests. Cal Poly opened Big West play by outscoring CSUN 9-4 in three games at Baggett Stadium as second baseman Connor Gurnik went 6-for-11 with a double and Michael Clark earned three saves with six scoreless, hitless innings en route to Big West Pitcher of the Week honors.
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. After hitting .517 in the first seven games this season, Beesley has cooled off, sporting a .263 mark with 17 RBI.
In addition to Beesley, 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, likely will  miss the 2019 season with a foot injury.
The pitching corps is 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 most of both the 2017 and 2018 seasons 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).
Leading the team seven weeks into the 2019 season is Samuelson, who is hitting .322 after going 20-for-46 (.435) over the past four weeks, followed by sophomore right fielder Elijah Greene with a .293 average and eight RBI. Gurnik also is hitting .293 with three doubles and five RBI.
Cal Poly's weekend rotation so far this season has consisted of sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (2-4, 3.18 ERA), senior righty Jarred Zill (2-4, 3.03 ERA) and junior right-hander Bobby Ay (2-0, 2.97 ERA). Freshman Bryan Woo (1-1, 6.92 ERA), also a right-hander, pitched five innings for the win against Columbia on March 9 and has been Cal Poly's fourth starter in four-game series.
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.
Including this season, the Mustangs have been tormented by slow starts — 3-11 before finishing 28-28 (won seven of last nine games) in 2017, 6-10 before wrapping up the 2018 campaign 30-27 (winning their final seven contests), and 2-9 prior to the Columbia series sweep. Cal Poly also opened the 2015 season 7-14 but rallied to finish 27-27 (winning 17 of its last 26 games).
Cal Poly will play 17 games against 2018 NCAA Regional participants this spring, is in the midst of a 12-game home stand, will play 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 — were 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 178 of their last 244 home games for a 72.9 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 and Washington, the Mustangs made another out-of-state trip to 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 (525-404-2) reached the 500-victory milestone last April 20 with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 525 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State's Bob Bennett (547) and Lee's 215 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 985 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee is just 15 victories shy of the 1,000 mark.
Cal Poly continues Big West Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against Cal State Fullerton inside Baggett Stadium. Games are on Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPNU) and Sunday at 1 o'clock.
Photo at top of page of third baseman Nick DiCarlo courtesy of Owen Main |
Photo at left of Craig Colen courtesy of Ray Ambler