SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (20-20 overall, 10-14 Big West), which won 10 of 13 games, including series wins over USC and then-No. 6 UCLA, after a 1-3 start, but has lost 11 of its last 17 contests since opening Big West play by winning three of four at CSUN, continues conference play this weekend by visiting CSU Bakersfield (14-13, 11-9 Big West) for a four-game set at Hardt Field (cap.: 2,000).
Coach Larry Lee’s Mustangs and the Roadrunners of fifth-year head coach Jeremy Beard clash Friday at 3 p.m. followed by a noon doubleheader Saturday and the finale Sunday at 1 o’clock.
All four 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 5-9 performance in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign, CSU Bakersfield returned 28 of 32 letter winners, including seven position starters and a dozen pitchers. Top returnees are second baseman Daniel Carrizosa (.343, four RBIs in 2020), first baseman Tyler Jorgensen (.315, eight RBIs) and right fielder Nick Grossman (.315, three RBIs, three steals). The pitching staff is paced by Ethan Skuija (2-1, 3.20 ERA in 2020), Davonte Butler (2-2, 4.12 ERA) and Aaron Charles (0-1, 4.50 ERA), all right-handers.
CSU Bakersfield opened its 2021 season with four losses in five games, but bounced back by winning 13 of its next 18 contests before being swept at home by CSUN last weekend. The Runners earned 3-1 series wins over UC Riverside, Hawai’i and UC San Diego and split 2-2 with Pacific and UC Davis. The Roadrunners are 11-9 in Big West games, tied for third place with Cal State Fullerton and five games behind co-leaders UC Irvine (18-6) and UC Santa Barbara (20-8). CSU Bakersfield series at Stanford and Cal State Fullerton were canceled due to COVID-19 protocols.
More than halfway through its 56-game schedule this season, Cal Poly fell below the .500 mark in Big West games by dropping three of four games to UC Irvine two weeks ago, splitting four games with UC Riverside and a 3-1 series loss at UC Santa Barbara. The Mustangs’ lone win against the Gauchos was a 5-1 verdict in the opener of Saturday’s doubleheader as right fielder Nick DiCarlo smashed a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Travis Weston (4-5) earned the win after striking out five and allowing one run and five hits over 5 1/3 innings while Kyle Scott earned his fifth save by securing the final 11 outs, seven via strikeout.
Drew Thorpe and Dylan Villalobos combined on a two-hitter in Cal Poly’s season-opening 4-0 win over Nevada, but the Mustangs stranded 38 runners on the base paths in the remaining three games of the series. It was a different story at USC as Cal Poly won two of three games in late February, its first win of a three-game set against USC in 27 Division I seasons. Thorpe and Andrew Alvarez combined on a three-hitter in a 2-1 victory Friday night at Dedeaux Field, the Mustangs parlayed 16 hits into a 9-4 triumph and the Trojans jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first two innings and held on for a 7-6 win to salvage one victory in the series.
In March, Cal Poly notched its first series sweep since April 2019 with a 3-0 whitewashing against Utah Valley. Boise State transfer Travis Weston tossed a complete-game two-hitter with a career-high 11 strikeouts in a 5-1 win while Andrew Alvarez, another lefty, tossed six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and teamed with three relievers on a 6-0 shutout in the finale.
No. 6 UCLA visited San Luis Obispo and the Mustangs earned a series win against the Bruins for the first time since Cal Poly’s Big West Conference championship season in 2014. The Mustangs won the opener 5-4, overcoming an early 3-0 deficit. Three Mustang pitchers combined to strike out 14 Bruins. In the middle game, Cal Poly produced a pair of five-run rallies and a 17-hit offensive attack, but that wasn't enough as UCLA erased an early 5-0 deficit with 11 runs in the second, third and fourth frames, then held on for a 13-12 victory. Lee and Cole Cabrera belted two-run home runs and Emmerson also knocked in two runs as Cal Poly clinched the series in the finale with an 8-5 victory.
Cal Poly opened Big West play with a 13-10 setback in its series opener at Matador Field, but bounced back with 7-6, 12-1 and 10-8 victories. Emmerson went 10-for-18 (.556) with three consecutive three-hit games for the Mustangs and Lee knocked in 10 runs. After losing three of four games against UC San Diego in the second week of Big West play, Cal Poly hosted San Jose State for a three-game non-conference set. Following a pair of lopsided games — Cal Poly winning 10-1 Thursday and San Jose State taking the middle game 10-2 — the Mustangs rode the combined three-hit pitching of Travis Weston and Kyle Scott to a 3-0 shutout in the series finale.
At Long Beach State four weeks ago, Cal Poly dropped the opener 7-0, then bounced back with a 7-5 triumph in the doubleheader opener as Alvarez pitched seven scoreless innings. After a 2-1 loss in the nightcap, Cal Poly earned the split with a 5-1 win Sunday thanks to Bryan Woo's 5 2/3 scoreless innings of relief and a career-high eight strikeouts plus two hits each from Cole Cabrera, Myles Emmerson and Brooks Lee.
During an eight-game home stand, Cal Poly dropped three of four games to UC Irvine, the Mustangs earning a walk-off 4-3 win in Saturday’s first game by rallying for three unearned runs in the ninth inning capped by Nick Marinconz’s long single off the left-field wall. The Mustangs split four games against UC Riverside, beating the Highlanders 4-2 in the opener as Drew Thorpe struck out seven over seven innings for his fourth win and Kyle Scott tossed two scoreless frames for a save. Cal Poly also won the second game of the series 8-2 with Andrew Alvarez striking out 12 over eight innings for his fifth win, all career highs, and outfielder Reagan Doss driving in three runs with three hits, including a double. The Highlanders outhit Cal Poly in all four contests. Doss was 7-for-13 with six RBIs in the first three games of the series.
CSU Bakersfield’s top hitters 27 games into its season are left fielder Evan Berkey (.388, seven doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs, five steals), Jorgensen (.380, six doubles, three home runs, 25 RBIs) and catcher Angel Saldivar (.324, seven RBIs). The pitching staff has been paced by Charles (2-0, 3.21 ERA), righty Roman Angelo (2-1, 3.49 ERA) and southpaw Arthur Joven (2-3, 7.18 ERA). Eight relievers have one or two saves.
Coached by Beard (fifth season, 94-117), Oregon State ‘97), CSU Bakersfield has a .277 team batting average through 27 games. The Roadrunners have stolen 23 of 35 bases, sport a 5.48 staff ERA with opponents hitting .281 and have compiled a .976 fielding percentage with 24 errors in 27 games.
CSU Bakersfield is ranked No. 36 nationally in fielding percentage (.976) and 45th in double plays per game (0.81). Individually, Tyler Jorgensen is No. 10 (once in every 13.5 at-bats) and Nick Grossman No. 13 (once every 12.6 at-bats) in toughest to strike out and Jorgensen also is No. 31 in hits per game (1.52). Berkey is 42nd with his .388 batting average.
Beard took over for Bob Macaluso in December 2016. Macaluso had replaced Bill Kernen as head coach on Aug. 31, 2015, but coached just one season. Beard coached at Portland in 2014 and 2015 before becoming pitching coach of the Roadrunners for the 2016 campaign. He also has coached at Central Catholic High School (1998-2001) in Portland, Ore., Columbia Basin College (Wash.) from 2001-10 and Western Nevada College in 2011 and 2012. Beard was a pitcher at Oregon State, graduating in 1996.
Cal Poly and CSU Bakersfield have met 28 times on the baseball field since the series began in 2009. The Mustangs hold a 22-6 advantage in the series, winning six of the first seven, the last eight contests and capturing a pair of midweek games in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The two teams did not meet in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the pair of midweek games played in 2019, freshman right-hander Bryan Woo and three relievers combined on a three-hitter and 13 strikeouts as Cal Poly won 7-1 at Bakersfield and the Mustangs earned a 2-0 shutout a week later in Baggett Stadium as Conagher Sands and Elijah Greene knocked in runs with two-out singles, Matt Arens and Dylan Villalobos turned in strong pitching performances in relief and Cal Poly notched three double plays. Arens tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings of one-hit baseball in relief of starter Chase Watkins for the win while Villalobos earned his first save with four scoreless frames on the mound, scattering two hits and striking out seven.
Cal Poly rallied from an 8-0 deficit to beat the Roadrunners 11-8 in 2018 at Hardt Field. Lee is 22-6 against CSU Bakersfield while Beard is 0-6 against Cal Poly.
Before the 2020 season was halted on March 11 due to COVID-19, Cal Poly won two of three games in the MLB4 Tournament at Scottsdale, Ariz., rallying for two runs on sacrifice flies in the bottom of the ninth inning for a walk-off 9-8 triumph over defending national champion Vanderbilt and also shutting out Connecticut 5-0 behind the combined two-hit pitching of Taylor Dollard and Dylan Villalobos.
The Mustangs, however, won just three of their next 13 contests to finish 5-11. One of those victories was a 10-inning 5-4 decision over No. 5 Michigan inside Baggett Stadium as Taison Corio singled with one out and the bases loaded.
Lee welcomed back 20 lettermen off last year’s squad, including seven position starters. The 2021 Mustang roster also has been bolstered by the addition of three transfers from Boise State, which dropped its baseball program last summer, and one from Washington State, first baseman/designated hitter Matt Lopez.
Catcher Myles Emmerson led the squad a year ago with his .317 average, but no other Mustang starter finished above .280. Emmerson is the only one of the five seniors on last year's squad who returned this season under the NCAA rule allowing every 2020 spring sport athlete another year of eligibility due to COVID-19.
Last year's freshman class, which includes the likes of shortstop Brooks Lee, infielder Nick Marinconz and pitchers Drew Thorpe, Derek True and Kyle Scott, is considered one of Lee's strongest and the lineup also will feature the likes of veterans Cole Cabrera in center field, Taison Corio at second base and Tate Samuelson, who has moved from first base across the diamond to third base this year.
In addition to Thorpe, Scott and True, the pitching staff is led by returnees Andrew Alvarez in the starting rotation and Bryan Woo and Dylan Villalobos out of the bullpen. Thorpe is the Friday night starter while Alvarez starts one of the games in the Saturday doubleheaders.
All three Boise State transfers have played prominent roles with the Mustangs this spring. Southpaw Travis Weston is Cal Poly's other Saturday starter, Joe Yorke has started all but one game at first base and Reagan Doss roams the grass in the outfield.
Leading the squad’s hitters 40 games into the season is Lopez at .341 with eight doubles and 26 RBIs. Lee is hitting .333 with 16 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 36 RBIs. Lee claimed back-to-back Big West Player of the Week awards after going 7-for-12 against Utah Valley and 7-for-14 versus UCLA, driving in 14 runs in the two series, and had a nine-game hitting streak halted by CSUN and a 12-game streak stopped by UC Irvine. Emmerson sports a .277 mark with eight doubles, a triple and 15 RBIs.
Thorpe (4-4, 3.59 ERA), Weston (4-5, 3.32 ERA) and Alvarez (5-2, 4.01 ERA) remain anchored in the starting rotation while Bryan Woo, Derek True, Kyle Scott (five saves) and Dylan Villalobos have worked the most innings out of the bullpen so far.
For the second time in the last five years, Cal Poly is playing all of its games in the Golden State. The 2017 squad also played all 56 games in California, going 28-28. The Mustangs also will play 33 of their 56 games inside Baggett Stadium, opening the season with 25 of their first 36 games at home.
Cal Poly won the Big West title in 2014 and has placed second six times (including three straight from 2017-19), third four times and fourth six times since 2000, posting a combined record of 310-258 in its first 23 years as a member of the Big West. 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 200 of their last 295 home games for a 67.8 winning percentage.
Lee (566-450-2) surpassed Fresno State’s Bob Bennett for the Big West record for overall wins with the 2-1 series-opening win at USC in late February. During the UC Davis series in 2019, Lee eclipsed 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 reached the 500-victory milestone on April 20, 2018, with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. He earned 460 wins in 16 seasons at Cuesta College and notched his 460th Mustang victory on March 13, 2017 against Gonzaga and his 1,000th career victory with a 3-0 triumph at UC Santa Barbara on May 23, 2019. He currently has a 1,026-691-5 record over 34-plus seasons as a head coach and coached his 1,000th game as Cal Poly’s head coach on April 1, a 10-1 win over UC San Diego.
Next week, Cal Poly returns home for a four-game Big West series against Cal State Fullerton. First pitches with the Titans are set for 5 p.m. Friday, a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday and a 1 o’clock finale Sunday.
- This report was contributed by Eric Burdick, Assistant Athletics Director for Athletics Communications