COMPLETE SERIES PREVIEW (pdf)
SAN LUIS OBISPO – The Cal Poly softball program is one of four teams sharing fourth place in the Big West Conference standings as the Mustangs close the 2017 regular season with a May 12-13, three-game series at UC Riverside. The series opens with a 3 p.m. matchup on Friday, May 12 and closes with a 1 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday, May 13. Winners of four of its last six games, Cal Poly (33-17, 9-9) heads into the final weekend of play sharing second place with CSUN (29-21, 9-9), UC Santa Barbara (29-25, 9-9) and Long Beach State (21-16, 9-9). With none of the four aforementioned programs playing one another during the final weekend, Cal Poly can guarantee no worse than a share of second place by sweeping sixth-place UC Riverside (26-23, 8-10). Cal State Fullerton (32-19, 15-3) has already solidified the Big West championship and the conference's automatic NCAA Tournament berth as the Titans lead the four second-place programs by six games (Cal Poly handed the Titans two of their three Big West losses this season).
FOLLOW THE MUSTANGS THIS WEEK: Live stats from all three series games at UC Riverside will be available via GoPoly.com HERE.
CAL POLY VERSUS UC RIVERSIDE: The Mustangs swept a three-game home series from the Highlanders to close last season and lead the all-time series, 35-17. Cal Poly, however, was swept at UC Riverside two seasons and has won just one of its last six road matchups against the Highlanders.
POSTSEASON ON THE HORION: The selection show for the 64-team NCAA Tournament will air live on ESPNU on Sunday, May 14 at 7 p.m. PT. Following the selection show at 8 p.m. PT, the selection committee for the inaugural 48-team National Invitational Softball Championship will unveil its field. The NISC consists of eight six-team regionals (May 16-18) with each champion comprising the eight-team championship field (May 21-24).
CAL POLY'S WINNING PEDIGREE: By sweeping UC Riverside, Cal Poly can post the program's fourth highest win total in the 23-year Division I era (Cal Poly finished 41-12 in 2009, 39-17 in 2007 and 37-17 in 1997). A 16-loss total would also rank as the second lowest total at the Division I level.
STAFF INJECTION: Cal Poly's pitching staff ERA of 1.29 ranks fourth among 291 NCAA Division I programs. All three of Cal Poly's pitchers who've started multiple games this season feature a sub-2.00 ERA in senior righthander Sierra Hyland (1.05), junior righthander Lindsey Chalmers (1.70) and freshman righthander Steffi Best (1.13).
CONDON ON VERGE OF BIG WEST CONFERENCE HISTORY: With 347 career victories entering Friday's matchup at UC Riverside, 13th-year Cal Poly head coach Jenny Condon requires just three more wins to become only the seventh coach in the 33-year history of Big West softball to reach 350 career victories. Among active head coaches, Condon trails only Long Beach State's Kim Sowder (353) in career victories by a Big West head coach.
CLOSE, BUT ...: Cal Poly's 17 losses this season have occurred by just 35 total runs (2.05 per game) with only three of the program's defeats coming by more than two runs. Five of Cal Poly's defeats have occurred in extra innings and three have occurred versus ranked programs.
MARATHON MUSTANGS: Led by the program's lengthiest game in eight seasons – an 8-7, 13-inning victory at UC Davis (April 29) – Cal Poly has played a program record 10 extra-inning matchups this season. The Mustangs, 5-5 in extra-inning games thus far, have played 22 extra innings this season – the equivalent of more than three games.
HYLAND'S SENIOR SEASON A DOMINATING EFFORT: Setting the Cal Poly program record with her 34th career shutout in an 8-0 win at UC Davis (April 29) marked the latest notable effort for senior righthander Sierra Hyland (20-11), who enters Friday's matchup at UC Riverside having allowed just four earned run in her last 22.2 inning while ranking sixth among NCAA Division I pitchers in ERA (1.05), 13th in strikeouts (235), 13th in walks allowed per seven innings (1.02), 15th in shutouts (eight), 25th in hits allowed per seven innings (4.46) and 43rd in strikeouts per seven innings (7.7). Among Big West Pitchers, Hyland also leads with her 20 victories and 213.2 innings pitched. Hyland, who opened the year by tossing a no-hitter versus Purdue (Feb. 10) and a perfect game against Creighton (Feb. 11) to earn the first of her two USA Softball National Player of the Week awards this year (she was also named NFCA National Pitcher of the Week on March 21), features an 7.6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, averages 1.10 strikeouts per inning and – having matched her career high with 15 strikeouts versus Liberty (Feb. 19) – produced seven double-digit strikeout games. Hyland, who owns one-hitters versus Middle Tennessee State (March 4) and No. 9 Oklahoma (March 17) and a two-hitter versus UConn (March 11), has walked just 31 batters all season. A conference record 16-time career Big West Pitcher of the Week honoree and two-time Player of the Week selection (her 18 total honors are also a Big West record in any sport), Hyland is the only player in the 33-year history of Big West softball to reach 900 career strikeouts (currently 925) and the only player in program history to have compiled three 200-strkeout seasons. Offensively, Hyland leads Cal Poly with a .329 (50-for-152) batting average, 50 hits, nine doubles, 71 total bases and eight multi-RBI games. She's also sixth among Big West hitters with 33 RBI. A .323 (194-for-601) career hitter whose average is the sixth highest mark in program history, Hyland also ranks second all-time in RBI (119), fourth in doubles (38), fifth in hits (194), home runs (16) and total bases (286) and eighth in at-bats (601).
THIS WEEK IN SIERRA HYLAND: Having already set a new Big West Conference career strikeout record (currently 925) and new Cal Poly program records for victories (78), appearances (154), starts (115), innings pitched (894.1), shutouts (34) and saves (six), Sierra Hyland enters Cal Poly's final regular season series within reach of three more achievements:
– Hyland requires just five and two-thirds more innings to become only the third player in Big West history to have pitched 900-plus career innings;
– She needs just two more victories to become only the seventh pitcher in Big West history with 80-plus career wins;
– Hyland needs just one more complete game to become the first player in program history to reach 100.
CHALMERS IN NATIONAL FORM: Without a sub-3.00 ERA at any point during her first two seasons, junior righthander Lindsey Chalmers (12-6) takes a 1.70 ERA that ranks 48th among NCAA Division I players into Friday's matchup at UC Riverside. Chalmers is also 48th nationally in hits allowed per seven innings (4.93) and third among Big West pitchers with a .193 opposing batting average. Having conceded just 10 earned runs in 41.0 Big West innings, Chalmers has struck out a career best nine hitters in a seven-inning game four times in 2017. She struck out 10 in nine innings versus Long Beach State (April 14).
CONVISSAR ENJOYING BREAKOUT ROLE: A career .243 hitter entering the year who had batted higher than .375 at just one point during her first two seasons, junior shortstop Chelsea Convissar comes into Friday's matchup at UC Riverside ranked second in Cal Poly's lineup with a .309 (43-for-139) batting average. Convissar, who has hit safely 29 times this season, leads Cal Poly with 13 multi-hit games.
HEYWARD KEEPS UP STELLER HITTING: The only Mustang to play every inning of every game at the same position, junior third baseman Stephanie Heyward – with a .307 (46-for-150) batting average – is one of four Mustangs hitting .300 or better. Heyward, who has struck out a team low five times in a team leading 181 plate appearances, owns Cal Poly's lengthiest hitting streak of 2017, having hit safely in 14 straight from March 11 to April 1. She also ranks second among Big West Conference players with 13 sacrifices. A starter in 146 straight games and 153 of a possible 155 during her career, Heyward ranks second all-time at Cal Poly with a .339 (155-for-457) career batting average.
MUSTANGS MOVE RUNNERS ALONG: The Mustangs feature the Big West Conference's top three leaders in sacrifice bunts with Cal Poly having produced 79 successful sacrifices in 50 games (the second highest total belongs to Cal State Fullerton at just 39 sacrifices). Senior second baseman Ashley Tornio leads the Big West with 14 sacrifices and, as a team, Cal Poly successfully advances baserunners 48.6 (375-for-772) percent of the time.
MUSTANGS FACE NATION'S FINEST IN 2017: In what has become a hallmark of 13th-year head coach Jenny Condon's tenure, Cal Poly will again contest one of the more competitive schedules in Division I during the 2016 season. In total, seven of Cal Poly's opening 28 games occurred against programs ranked or receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 poll (ranking from date of game) and 22 of 50 came versus programs in the top 75 of the NCAA RPI.