Cal Poly opens Big West baseball slate this weekend against CSUN

Photos courtesy of Cal Poly Athletics

Mustangs (9-13) split four-game series against Saint Mary’s; Matadors (12-13) sweep Santa Clara after losing 10 of 14 games

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly (9-13 overall, 0-0 Big West), which split a four-game non-conference series against Saint Mary’s over the weekend, continues its 12-game home stand and opens Big West Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against CSUN (12-13 overall, 0-0 Big West) inside Baggett Stadium. Coach Larry Lee’s Mustangs and the Matadors of sixth-year head coach Greg Moore square off Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and a 1 p.m. series finale Sunday.

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.

Coming off a 28-30 campaign, including a 13-11 mark for a third-place tie in the Big West Conference, CSUN returns 12 letter winners, including one position starter and eight pitchers. Top returnees are second baseman Kyle Barret (.281, seven RBI in 2018) and shortstop Brandon Bohning (.260, 10 doubles, four home runs, 26 RBI). The pitching staff is led by right-handers Walker Armstrong (3-4, 3.39 ERA in 2018), Matt Acosta (5-6, 4.40 ERA), Jayson Newman (3-2, 4.46 ERA) and Blake Schriever (3-0, 3.74 ERA) along with lefty Isaiah Nunez (1-2, 3.65 ERA).

Coached by Greg Moore (sixth season, 150-156, San Francisco ‘99), CSUN has a .259 team batting average through 25 games. The Matadors have stolen 33 of 37 bases, second in the Big West, sport a 4.56 staff ERA and have compiled a .965 fielding percentage with 33 errors in 25 games.

CSUN claimed its lone Big West title in 2002, and captured the Western Athletic Conference crown in 1996, both under Mike Batesole, now head coach at Fresno State. CSUN captured NCAA Division II national titles in 1970 and 1984 under Bob Hiegert.

Former Matadors who played in the Major Leagues include Jason Thompson, Adam Kennedy, Robert Fick, Lyman Bostock and Kameron Loe.

Cal Poly and CSUN have met 229 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1959. The Matadors hold a 124-105 advantage after winning two of three games at Matador Field a year ago. Cal Poly won two of three games inside Baggett Stadium in 2017 while CSUN swept the Mustangs three years ago at Matador Field. In 2014, Cal Poly swept the Matadors at Matador Field to clinch the Big West title. Cal Poly is 40-33 against CSUN since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season. Larry Lee is 33-20 against CSUN while Greg Moore is 7-8 against Cal Poly.

Moore was associate head coach for three seasons at San Francisco, where he oversaw pitching, admissions, community service and summer placement. Moore began his collegiate coaching career at USF in 2002 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Dons. He served in that capacity until 2009, when he took a position as the pitching coach at Washington for one season before heading back to his alma mater.

Moore played collegiate baseball for San Francisco and was named to the West Coast Conference All-Academic Team in 2001. As a player, he won the team's "Most Inspirational" award in back-to-back seasons and the award now bears his name. Moore earned his bachelor's degree in education and completed his master's in sports and fitness management at San Francisco in 2001.

CSUN’s top hitters six weeks into the 2019 season are Barret (.323, eight doubles, 17 RBI), catcher/designated hitter Sean Skelly (.313, nine RBI) and first baseman Wesley Ghan-Gibson (.311, four home runs, 13 RBI). Heading the pitching staff are right-handers Moore (3-1, 2.11 ERA) and Armstrong (0-2, 3.95 ERA) along with southpaw Nunez (4-2, 3.52 ERA). Schriever has six saves and a 3.50 ERA with a 1-1 mark).

CSUN opened its 2019 season by splitting four games with Kansas State and winning three of four games versus Gonzaga. After the 5-3 start, the Matadors lost two of three to Michigan, Washington State and Iowa before sweeping a three-game set at home against Santa Clara last weekend.

CSUN is 20th in the nation with its 25 home runs and also is No. 42 in fewest walks allowed per nine innings (3.39 per game). Individually, Blake Schriever is 14th with his six saves, Isaiah Nunez is 29th with four wins and Blaine Traxel already has 13 pitching appearances this season, 18th in the country.

Cal Poly’s first two wins of 2019 were a pair of midweek triumphs against Central California rival and future Big West Conference member CSU Bakersfield. The Mustangs swept a four-game series versus Columbia, earned a 3-1 win in the middle game of the Baylor series and won the first two games of their series against Saint Mary’s before dropping the last two contests.

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 .261 mark with 14 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 six weeks into the 2019 season is Samuelson, who is hitting .329 after going 17-for-35 (.486) over the past three weeks, followed by sophomore right fielder Elijah Greene with a .299 average and eight RBI.

Cal Poly’s weekend rotation so far this season has consisted of sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (1-4, 3.54 ERA), senior righty Jarred Zill (1-4, 3.24 ERA) and junior right-hander Bobby Ay (2-0, 3.07 ERA). Freshman Bryan Woo (1-1, 6.92 ERA), also a right-hander, pitched five innings for the win against Columbia on March 9 and has been Cal Poly’s fourth starter in four-game series.

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, is in the midst of a 12-game homestand, 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 175 of their last 241 home games for a 72.3 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 has 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 (522-404-2) reached the 500-victory milestone last April 20 with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 522 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State’s Bob Bennett (547) and Lee’s 212 conference wins also are No. 2 in the Big West behind Long Beach State’s Dave Snow (218).

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 982 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee is just 18 victories shy of the 1,000 mark.

Next week, Cal Poly hosts Santa Clara on Tuesday night before continuing Big West Conference play with a three-game series against Cal State Fullerton inside Baggett Stadium. Games are on Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. (ESPNU) and Sunday at 1 p.m.

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Photos courtesy of Cal Poly Athletics


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