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Cal Poly to Host Pepperdine for Pair of Baseball Games on Tuesday

Cal Poly to Host Pepperdine for Pair of Baseball Games on Tuesday
 
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (22-22 overall, 12-3 Big West), off to a 12-3 start in Big West play with sweeps over CSUN, UC Davis and Long Beach State, will host Pepperdine (20-20, 11-10 West Coast) for a pair of games Tuesday. Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs and the Waves of fourth-year head coach Rick Hirtensteiner complete their March 12 suspended game at 5 p.m., followed by the regularly scheduled contest at 6 o'clock inside Baggett Stadium (3,138).
 
The two games 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 led 11-6 with Pepperdine coming to bat in the bottom of the eighth inning when the March 12 game in Malibu was suspended due to darkness. There will be a 30-minute break after the suspended game is completed.
 
Cal Poly has won 20 of its last 33 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 sweeping UC Davis and Long Beach State on the road. The Mustangs won the middle game of their series against USC in late April and claimed two of three contests versus Hawai'i last weekend.

Following the Waves

Coming off a 31-24 campaign, including a 17-10 mark for first place in the West Coast Conference's regular season standings, Pepperdine returned 28 letter winners, including seven position starters and 13 pitchers. Top returnees are utility player Brandt Belt (.316, 18 RBI in 2018) and outfielders Matt Kanfer (.312, five home runs, 29 RBI) and Cory Wills (.291, five home runs, 24 RBI). The pitching staff is led by right-handers Jonathan Pendergast (7-6, 2.51 ERA in 2018), Cooper Chandler (5-3, 4.14 ERA) and Christian Stoutland (4-4, 4.20 ERA).
 
Pepperdine went 2-2 in the West Coast Conference Tournament a year ago in Stockton, falling 17-2 to Gonzaga in the championship game.
 
After a 3-6 start this spring which included two losses each at Vanderbilt and against UC Santa Barbara, the Waves swept UC Davis in a three-game series at home and won five of their first seven West Coast Conference games, part of a streak of 11 wins in 13 contests for a 14-8 overall mark. Pepperdine, however, has lost 12 of its last 18 games to fall back to the .500 mark at 20-20.
 
When the March 12 game was suspended, Michael Clark (4-3, 2.24 ERA) was on the mound for Cal Poly, having pitched two innings, while Jack Baird (0-0, 3.86 ERA) was pitching for Pepperdine. Baird will start the regularly scheduled contest while Darren Nelson (2-5, 5.32 ERA) will be on the mound for Cal Poly.
 
Hirtensteiner (fourth season, 100-100, Pepperdine '89), a four-year standout at Pepperdine who earned All-American honors as a senior in 1989, was an assistant at Pepperdine for 17 seasons before replacing Steve Rodriguez (now head coach at Baylor) prior to the 2016 campaign.
 
A regional qualifier for the 28th time in 2015 and 1992 College World Series champion, Pepperdine has appeared in one Super Regional (Fort Worth in 2014) and two College World Series. The Waves won the 2015 West Coast Conference postseason tournament in Stockton and went 2-2 in the Fullerton Regional.
 
This year, Pepperdine is hitting .273, led by catcher Joe Caparis (.387, 12 RBI), first baseman Brandt Belk (.333, 15 RBI), shortstop Quincy McAfee (.308, 12 doubles, 20 RBI) and second baseman Wyatt Young (.305, 21 RBI). The Waves have stolen 21 of 39 bases, sport a 4.05 staff ERA and have committed 35 errors in 40 games for a .976 fielding percentage.
 
Cal Poly and Pepperdine have met 64 times in baseball (not including the suspended game) since the series began in 1947. The Waves hold a 38-26 advantage. The two teams have split a pair of midweek games each of the last five years. Pepperdine also earned 2-1 and 10-6 wins over the Mustangs in the 2014 San Luis Obispo Regional.
 
Cal Poly is 16-23 against Pepperdine since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season. Larry Lee is 13-16 against his alma mater while Rick Hirtensteiner is 3-3 versus Cal Poly.

Catching Up With the Mustangs

Lee welcomed back 18 letter winners this spring, including five position players who made 25 or more starts in 2018, and eight pitchers, three of whom 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 a team-leading 26 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 11 weeks into the 2019 season is freshman designated hitter Conagher Sands with a .356 average and a 19-game hitting streak, fourth-longest in Cal Poly's 25-year Division I history. He is followed by Samuelson with a .296 average and 24 RBI,  middle infielder Connor Gurnik at .280 with seven doubles and 14 RBI and sophomore right fielder Elijah Greene at .278 with three doubles and 15 RBI. 
 
Cal Poly's weekend rotation in the first eight weeks of the 2019 season consisted of senior righty Jarred Zill (2-5, 3.54 ERA), junior right-hander Bobby Ay (6-0, 3.28 ERA) and sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (2-5, 5.32 ERA). Zill has missed his last four starts due to injury with freshman southpaw Chase Watkins (0-1, 4.15 ERA) stepping in. Freshman Bryan Woo (1-2, 11.57 ERA), also a right-hander, pitched five innings for the win against Columbia on March 9, was Cal Poly's fourth starter in a pair of four-game series and also has started two midweek games.

Final Thoughts

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 four weeks ago with a 6-6 mark, will play 30 home games in all and have 10 contests scheduled 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 182 of their last 255 home games for a 71.3 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 (535-413-2) reached the 500-victory milestone on April 20, 2018, with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 535 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State's Bob Bennett (547) and, during the UC Davis series, Lee surpassed Cal Poly alum and former Long Beach State head coach Dave Snow with his 219th conference win. 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 995 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee is just five victories shy of the 1,000 mark.
 
Cal Poly heads to UC Irvine for a three-game Big West series Friday through Sunday.