LONG BEACH, Calif. – Two days after throwing four innings in the opener, Michael Clark pitched 6 1/3 innings in relief for his fourth win – second of the series -- and Elijah Greene drove in the winning run in the final game of a series for the second straight weekend as Cal Poly completed a sweep of its three-game set at Long Beach State with a 5-4 victory Saturday afternoon at Blair Field.
Clark (4-1) did not allow a run, scattered five hits and struck out six before leaving the game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Southpaw Andrew Alvarez came out of the bullpen to strike out the only batter he faced, then righty Taylor Dollard was summoned to get the final two outs and did so with strikeouts for his first save.
With the win, Cal Poly swept a Big West series at Blair Field for the first time since 1997, earned its sixth straight win, was victorious for the 17th time in its last 25 games after a 2-9 start, improved to 19-17 for the season and maintained its half-game lead over UC Santa Barbara in the conference standings at 10-2.
The Gauchos (30-7, 8-1 Big West) finished off their sweep of UC Davis with a 4-3 triumph at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Long Beach State fell to 7-30 and 2-7.
"We played extremely well this weekend," said 17th-year Mustang head coach Larry Lee. "We played errorless defense all weekend, got some timely hitting and some outstanding pitching performances. We put ourselves in a good position halfway through the conference schedule."
Cal Poly erupted for four runs in the first inning with five hits and a pair of walks. Bradlee Beesley and Conagher Sands doubled to drive in the first two runs and Cole Cabrera and Nick DiCarlo added RBI singles for the 4-0 advantage.
Long Beach State rallied for four runs in its half of the second frame to knot the score. Kaden Hogan's first home run of the year, a two-run shot, cut the Mustang lead in half and Laine Huffman tied the game with a two-run single, chasing Mustang starter Darren Nelson.
Clark restored order and threw 106 pitches, reaching the ninth inning and keeping Long Beach State off the scoreboard. Clark retired the side in order twice and the Dirtbags did not get a runner to third base until the last inning.
Cal Poly has won six straight conference games, sweeping UC Davis and Long Beach State, both series played on the road.
"We were able to play a high-quality brand of baseball even without one starting pitcher and our starting shortstop," said Lee, "and doing it on the road at two difficult ballparks. It's always difficult to win in conference and even more difficult on the road. We've been real fortunate the last two weeks on the road."
For the week, Clark, who tossed four frames in relief for the win Thursday night, pitched 10 1/3 innings and did not allow a run, scattered five hits, struck out eight. Issued two walks and earned a pair of victories.
Greene, whose sacrifice fly knocked in the winning run in the ninth inning, capping Cal Poly's comeback from a 5-0 deficit, at UC Davis last Sunday, singled through the right side of the Long Beach State infield to score Myles Emmerson from third base and give Cal Poly a 5-4 lead in the fourth inning.
There was no scoring for either team the rest of the way. Long Beach State stranded 11 runners on the basepaths, including two runners in the first and third innings and three in the ninth. The Dirtbags loaded the bases in the ninth via a walk, a single and a hit batsman before Alvarez and Dollard combined to strike out the side, ending the game.
Greene and DiCarlo (pictured above) both had two hits for Cal Poly and Sands extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his first-inning RBI double.
Hogan and Jacob Hughey had three hits each for Long Beach State and Chris Jimenez added two.
The loss went to Dirtbag starter Zak Baayoun (2-7) as the junior southpaw allowed five runs and eight hits over four innings. He threw 42 pitches in allowing the four runs in the top of the first inning.
Nelson, who has not been able to exceed three innings on the mound in five of his last six starts, surrendered four runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings Saturday.
The game also featured a skunk sprinting from the Cal Poly dugout on the first-base side around the backstop prior to the Mustangs' batting practice, a squirrel in the Cal Poly bullpen during the game and a black cat. In addition, the game was halted for a couple minutes due to a drone in the sky above the stadium and was held up a couple minutes in the bottom of the ninth when Long Beach State summoned a catcher from the bullpen to pinch-hit.
Cal Poly wraps up a seven-game road trip Tuesday night at Santa Clara (8-29), which lost two of three West Coast Conference games versus Gonzaga this weekend but beat the Mustangs 7-6 in 10 innings on April 2.
Cal Poly steps away from Big West play next weekend, hosting USC for a three-game non-conference series Friday through Sunday inside Baggett Stadium.
"Our non-conference opponents ahead will allow us to figure out some question marks and allow us to get (shortstop) Dylan Doherty back into the fold," Lee said.