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Cal Poly to Visit Long Beach State for Big West Series This Weekend

Cal Poly to Visit Long Beach State for Big West Series This Weekend
 
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (16-17 overall, 7-2 Big West), which climbed into first place in the Big West Conference by sweeping UC Davis on the road last weekend, continues its seven-game road trip with another Big West series at Long Beach State (7-27 overall, 2-4 Big West) this weekend inside Blair Field. Due to the Easter holiday, Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs and the Dirtbags of interim co-head coaches Dan Ricabal and Greg Bergeron square off Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 2 o'clock.
 
All three games of the series 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 www.GoPoly.com.
 
Cal Poly has won 14 of its last 22 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 by sweeping CSUN, losing two of three versus Cal State Fullerton and, last weekend, sweeping UC Davis on the road for the first time in program history by scores of 5-1, 8-5 and 6-5. In rallying from a 5-0 deficit in the finale, the Mustangs won a game for the first time when trailing after six and seven innings (now 1-16 in both cases), scoring three runs in the eighth and the go-ahead run in the ninth on Elijah Greene's sacrifice fly.
 

Dirtbags By the Numbers

Coming off an 27-30 campaign, including a 12-12 mark for fifth place in the Big West Conference, Long Beach State returned 12 letter winners, including five position starters and four pitchers. Top returnees are shortstop Laine Huffman (.200 in 2018), first baseman/designated hitter Luke Rasmussen (.167), first baseman Leonard Jones (.312, 22 RBI) and outfielder Brooks Stotler (.237, 21 RBI, nine steals). The pitching staff is led by right-hander Dylan Spacke  (3-2, 4.54 ERA, three saves in 2018) and southpaw Zak Baayoun (9-3, 3.58 ERA).
 
Long Beach State has a .232 team batting average through 34 games. The Dirtbags have stolen 15 of 32 bases, sport a 5.23 staff ERA and have compiled a .966 fielding percentage with 43 errors in 34 games.
 
Troy Buckley, head coach of Long Beach State for eight-plus seasons with a 260-231-1 record, was dismissed last Thursday, with Ricabal and Bergeron selected to act as interim co-head coaches for the rest of the year. The Dirtbags were 5-26 at the time of Buckley's dismissal, swept by then-No. 3 Florida, Nevada and then-No. 10 Ole Miss in an 0-10 start to the season. Long Beach earned its first series win last weekend, taking two of three from CSUN at Blair Field. The Dirtbags won Friday 6-5 in walk-off fashion on Dominic Campeau's two-out RBI single, lost 3-2 Saturday and won the finale Sunday 7-4.
 
Top Dirtbag hitters to date are designated hitter Jacob Hughey (.317, 10 doubles, 18 RBI), Huffman (.318), right fielder Calvin Estrada (.257, 11 RBI) and left fielder Chase Luttrell (.257). The pitching staff is paced by Baayoun (2-6, 4.88 ERA) and Seminaris (2-5, 3.59 ERA).
 
The Dirtbags' top national rankings are No. 5 in sacrifice bunts (34), No. 62 with 27 double plays turned, No. 88 in hit batters (40) and No. 99 in batters hit by the pitchers (40).
 
The Dirtbags have claimed nine Big West titles (ending a nine-year drought in 2017), and have made 22 NCAA regional appearances and four trips to the College World Series, the last in 1998.
 
Cal Poly and Long Beach State have met 149 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1957. The Dirtbags hold a 94-55 advantage, though the Mustangs swept last year's series in Baggett Stadium by 5-4, 5-2 and 8-2 scores. 
 
Long Beach State was 16-2 in a six-year stretch against the Mustangs until Cal Poly won two of three in 2009, its first series win at Blair Field since 1997, and also won two of three in 2010 and 2015 in San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly is 22-52 against Long Beach State since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season.
 
Larry Lee is 16-32 against Long Beach State while Troy Buckley was 14-10 against Cal Poly.
 
Former Dirtbags in the Major Leagues include Jason Giambi, Evan Longoria, Troy Tulowitzki, Jason Vargas and Jered Weaver.
 
Ricabal is in his third season as pitching coach at Long Beach State after a five-year stint as pitching coach at Loyola Marymount. He was an All-American pitcher both at Cerritos College and Cal State Fullerton. Bergeron has coached the offense and has served as recruiting coordinator at Long Beach State for four seasons. Prior to that, he served as an assistant under Dave Serrano at Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and Tennessee and played collegiately at Cerritos College. Cal State Dominguez Hills and Loyola Marymount.
 

Mustang Notes

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 .278 mark with a team-leading 22 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 nine weeks into the 2019 season is redshirt freshman middle infielder Connor Gurnik with a .310 mark. Samuelson is hitting .299 with 16 RBI, followed by sophomore right fielder Elijah Greene at .295. Gurnik, who had a four-hit game two weeks ago against Santa Clara and a three-hit contest at UC Davis, has six doubles and 13 RBI while Greene has produced three doubles and 13 RBI. 
 
Cal Poly's weekend rotation so far this season has consisted of sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (2-5, 4.46 ERA), senior righty Jarred Zill (2-5, 3.54 ERA) and junior right-hander Bobby Ay (4-0, 2.87 ERA). Zill missed last week's start due to injury and was replaced by freshman southpaw Chase Watkins (0-1, 3.65 ERA). Freshman Bryan Woo (1-2, 11.25 ERA), also a right-hander, pitched five innings for the win against Columbia on March 9, was Cal Poly's fourth starter in four-game series and also has started a pair of midweek games.
 

A Little Mustangs History

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, wrapped up a 12-game home stand last week, 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 179 of their last 249 home games for a 71.9 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 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 (529-408-2) reached the 500-victory milestone last April 20 with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 529 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State's Bob Bennett (547) and, last week, Lee surpassed Cal Poly alum and former Long Beach State head coach Dave Snow with 219 conference wins. Snow guided the Dirtbags to 218 Big West wins from 1989-2001.
 
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 989 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee is just 11 victories shy of the 1,000 mark.
 
Next week, Cal Poly wraps up the seven-game road trip with a midweek game Tuesday at Santa Clara. With the bye in the Big West schedule, the Mustangs will take a break from conference play next weekend, hosting USC for a three-game series Friday through Sunday inside Baggett Stadium.
 
Photo above of Cal Poly third baseman Nick DiCarlo courtesy of Nathan Nybakke | Photography805.com