IRVINE, Calif. – A two-run home run by Conagher Sands highlighted a five-run first-inning rally and Cal Poly salvaged one win in its three-game Big West Conference baseball series at UC Irvine with an 8-3 victory Sunday afternoon on Cicerone Field inside Anteater Ballpark.
Elijah Greene sparked the rally with a one-out triple and Tate Samuelson (one-run single), Sands (two-run homer), Cole Cabrera (bases-loaded walk) and Bradlee Beesley (RBI single) knocked in the runs.
UC Irvine was held scoreless until the fifth, scoring three times, but the Mustangs got the three runs back in the top of the sixth and relievers Michael Clark and Taylor Dollard kept the Anteaters off the scoreboard the rest of the way.
With the win, Cal Poly moved back into second place alone in the Big West at 13-5 (24-25 overall), one game ahead of third-place UC Irvine (31-15, 12-6) and two behind first-place UC Santa Barbara (39-7, 15-3), an 8-4 winner over Long Beach State.
Sands (pictured above) extended his hitting streak to 22 games with his first career home run as a Mustang, a two-run shot off the base of the scoreboard beyond the left-field fence.
Beesley and Nick DiCarlo both had two of Cal Poly's 10 hits.
UC Irvine was held to just four hits by a trio of Mustang pitchers. Christian Koss produced a single and double for the Anteaters.
Mustang starter Andrew Alvarez pitched four scoreless innings with five strikeouts before running into trouble in the fifth, allowing all three runs (two earned). Clark (6-3) worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts for the win and Dollard secured the final four outs.
Clark came into the game with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth. Although he allowed all three inherited runners to score on an error and a single, he worked out of the jam with two grounders and a strikeout.
The loss went to UC Irvine starter Tanner Brubaker (5-3), who allowed all five runs and was knocked out in the first inning. Dylan Riddle restored some order and was one of six Anteater pitchers used in the game.
After UC Irvine closed the gap to 5-3 in the fifth, Cal Poly bounced right back with three runs in the top of the sixth. All three runs were unearned as reliever Jordan Bocko dropped a bases-loaded two-out popup near the mound, allowing two runs to score. A passed ball plated the third run.
Cal Poly plays its final non-conference game Tuesday at No. 2 Stanford, then returns home for a three-game weekend Big West series against UC Riverside inside Baggett Stadium. Friday's game starts at 6 p.m. followed by 1 o'clock first pitches both Saturday and Sunday.
Photo courtesy of Kaylaa Kawasaki | Cal Poly Baseball Student Manager