Cal Poly (1-3 overall, 0-0 Big West), which opened its 2021 season with a 4-0 shutout before losing the four-game series to Nevada at home, plays its only non-conference road series this weekend by visiting the USC Trojans (2-1, 0—0 Pac-12) inside Dedeaux Field (cap.: 2,500).

Coach Larry Lee’s Mustangs and the Trojans of second-year head coach Jason Gill, a former player under Lee while both were at Cuesta College, clash Friday at 5 p.m., Saturday at 2 o’clock and Sunday at 1 p.m.

The first and third games of the series will be broadcast on ESPN Radio (1280 AM and 101.7 FM) with Jay Holloway providing the play-by-play. The middle game of the series will be available via audio stream. Links for live stats and audio and video streams are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.

Coming off a 10-5 performance in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign, USC returned 28 of 31 letter winners, including eight position starters and nine pitchers. Top returnees are utility player Jamal O’Guinn (.378 in 2020), catcher/first baseman Clay Owens (.346, 17 RBIs) and infielder Ben Ramirez (.310, 13 RBIs). The pitching staff is led by Isaac Esqueda (0-1, 1.20 ERA in 2020), Alex Cornwell (2-1, 3.66 ERA) and Brian Gursky (1-1, 0.00 ERA), all southpaws. Esqueda, Cornwell and righty Chandler Champlain (0-0, 1.23 ERA) will start the three games against Cal Poly.

Coached by Gill (second season, 12-6, Cal State Fullerton ‘96), USC won two of three games against Loyola Marymount last weekend. The Trojans won 3-2 on Friday and 5-0 on Saturday, both at home, and fell 9-8 on the Lions’ home turf Sunday.

Esqueda started the opener and allowed two runs and six hits over five innings in the no-decision. Trailing 2-0, USC scored single runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings for the win. A bases-loaded walk was the decider. Champlain and Gursky combined on a six-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts in Saturday’s shutout while seven Trojan pitchers combined to give up 20 hits in the series finale. USC committed five errors in the last game, leading to four unearned runs for the Lions.

Cal Poly followed its season-opening 4-0 shutout against Nevada with 2-1, 11-8 (10 innings) and 12-6 setbacks. Drew Thorpe and Dylan Villalobos combined on a two-hitter in the opener, but the Mustangs stranded 38 runners on the base paths in the remaining three games of the series. Junior third baseman Tate Samuelson and senior catcher Myles Emmerson led the way at the plate for Cal Poly, Samuelson going 7-for-16 (,438) with a double, triple and four RBIs and Emmerson going 6-for-14 (.429) with two doubles and three runs scored.

With 12 national championships in the sport, the Trojans are far and away the leader in that category (no other school has more than six). Since starting baseball in 1889, the Trojans have a record of 2,671-1,555-18 (.631) against college opponents, and have captured 38 conference titles, last claiming the Pac-12 championship in 2002 under Mike Gillespie.

Rod Dedeaux coached USC from 1942-86, leading the school to 11 of its NCAA crowns, including five straight from 1970-74 (no other school has strung together more than two in a row). Trojans have been named first team All-American 52 times, with Jay Roundy, Pat Harrison, Bill Bordley and Gabe Alvarez being two-time selections. Mark McGwire (1984), Seth Etherton (1998) and Mark Prior (2001) were national Players of the Year.

USC has appeared in 41 regionals, the last time in 2015, compiling a 102-45 mark in postseason play. The Trojans have won 784 of 100 College World Series games.

USC boasts many successful major leaguers such as Ron Fairly, Don Buford, Tom Seaver, Dave Kingman, Fred Lynn, Roy Smalley, Steve Kemp, Mark McGwire, Randy Johnson, Bret and Aaron Boone, Jeff Cirillo, Barry Zito, Geoff Jenkins and Mark Prior. In all, Trojans have been drafted 340 times, with a national-best 114 Trojans having played in the major leagues.

Cal Poly and Southern California have met 35 times on the baseball field. The Trojans hold a 27-8 advantage, winning two of three at Baggett Stadium in 2019. Larry Lee is 5-12 against USC while Gill is 5-9 against Cal Poly, all while at Loyola Marymount.

Hired as USC’s head coach on June 14, 2019, Gill became a Trojan after 11 seasons at Loyola Marymount, where he posted a 322-286-1 (.530) overall record. In 2019, he led the Lions to a 34-25 record and into the NCAA postseason, with LMU reaching the final of the Los Angeles Regional after wins over Baylor and UCLA, before narrowly falling to the top-seeded Bruins.

Prior to his time at LMU, he was the hitting coach and recruiting coordinator under George Horton at both Cal State Fullerton and Oregon, bringing in a Top 10 recruiting class in 2007 at Fullerton. He was Horton's first hire as both men left Cal State Fullerton to begin the reconstruction of the Oregon baseball program in 2007.

Gill spent the three years (2001-04) preceding his time with the Titans at UC Irvine and was an assistant at LMU in 1999 and 2000, helping to lead the Lions to West Coast Conference titles in both seasons. Prior to that, he worked as an assistant at Nevada (1997-98), helping to lead the Wolf Pack to the program’s second-ever postseason appearance.

Gill prepped at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., then played two years under Lee at Cuesta College in 1993 and 1994. He received his bachelor's degree from Cal State Fullerton in kinesiology in 1996.

Before the 2020 season was halted last 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 10 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 is returning 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 will move from first base across the diamond to third base this year.

In addition to Thorpe, Scott and True, the pitching staff will be led by returnees Andrew Alvarez and Bryan Woo in the starting rotation and Dylan Villalobos out of the bullpen. Thorpe is expected to start the season opener Friday night.

All three Boise State transfers figure to play prominent roles with the Mustangs this spring. Southpaw Travis Weston will be Cal Poly's Saturday starter, Joe Yorke is penciled on the depth chart No. 1 at first base and Reagan Doss is listed No. 1 in right field.

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 its 56 games inside Baggett Stadium, opening the season with 17 of their first 23 games at home.

Cal Poly won the Big West title in 2014 and has placed second six times, third four times and fourth six times since 2000, posting a combined record of 310-258 in 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 188 of their last 273 home games for a 68.9 winning percentage.

Lee (547-433-2) moved into a tie with Fresno State’s Bob Bennett for the Big West record for overall wins with last week’s 4-0 shutout against Nevada. During the UC Davis series in 2019, 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 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 1,007-674-5 record over 34-plus seasons as a head coach.

Next week, Cal Poly returns home to host Utah Valley for a three-game non-conference series. Games will start Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 1 o’clock.

- Eric Burdick, Assistant Athletics Director for Athletics Communications


Cal Poly Women's Golf Finishes Tied for Second Place in The Gold Rush

SEAL BEACH — With four golfers shooting 73 or better, the Cal Poly women's golf team posted its fifth-best single-round team score and climbed three spots into a tie for second place among 11 schools competing in The Gold Rush hosted by Long Beach State on Tuesday.

Coach Sofie Aagaard's Mustangs carded a four-person three-under-par 285 total in the final round at the Old Ranch Country Club and finished second with UNLV with a 34-over-par 898 aggregate. USC was the runaway winner with an even-par 864 total on the 6,248-yard par-72 course, shooting a final-round 284.

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"Today was a big day for this team, with a minus-three team score in the final round to move up the leaderboard," said Aagaard. "The first round yesterday was a challenge on shot execution and we came out flat. We didn't handle the pin positions that well and forced some shots we didn't have great confidence in.

"The second round was mostly better, but for a poor finish on the last few holes," Aagaard added. "The wind was calmer today and the greens were a bit more receptive in the morning as they were watered and rolled. We got off to a good start hitting greens and creating opportunities for birdies. It didn't take long for the putts to start dropping and the birdies adding up."

Leading the way Caroline Cantlay and Nicole Neale as both carded two-under-par 70s.

Cantlay recorded three birdies and one bogey, climbing nine spots into 10th place with her eight-over-par 224 total, while Neale rebounded from Monday's 81 and 76 with four birdies and a pair of bogeys, jumping from 33rd to 15th with a three-round 227 total.

Vanessa Wang checked in with an even-par 72, posting four birdies and an equal number of bogeys to finish in a tie for seventh place with Jessica Hall of Fresno State, both with 221 totals.

Elizabeth Scholtes added a 73 for a 226 total and a tie for 12th place with two other golfers.

"Caroline and Nicole were both under par today and played steady the whole round," said Aagaard. "A top-10 finish for Vanessa was great and, to see different players on the team leading different weeks, shows promise in the depth of our lineup."

Madi Daniel carded an 84 for a 250 total and 57th place while Carissa Wu, competing as an individual, finished 54th with a final-found 84 for a 247 aggregate.

Top three individuals on the leaderboard all are from USC. Allisen Corpuz carded a 66 for a 10-under-par 206 and the victory while Alyaa Abdulghany was second with a 68 and a 210 total. Malia Nam was third with a 71 to finish at 216.

Wang finished fourth in par-4 scoring at four over par and Scholtes was 10th at plus-five. In par-5 scoring, Wang was fifth at minus-three and Scholtes eighth at one under par. Wang's eight birdies were the eighth-most in the field of 62 golfers. Cantlay's 37 pars were No. 4.

Cal Poly competes in the Bruin-Wave Invitational co-hosted by UCLA and Pepperdine next Monday and Tuesday at the Saticoy Country Club just east of Ventura.

"We'll have four days at home to recover and tidy up some shots before heading to play at the Bruin-Wave," said Aagaard.

- Eric Burdick, Assistant Athletics Director for Athletics Communications


Sixth-Ranked Mustangs Begin 2021 Beach Volleyball Season Saturday

Three hundred and fifty-seven days. That’s how long it will have been since the Cal Poly beach volleyball program played a match when it opens its season this Saturday.

The Mustangs, ranked No. 6 in the AVCA Preseason Top 20 Poll and No. by collegebeachvb.com, will begin their 2021 campaign by heading to Tallahassee, Fla. this weekend for four matches, two of which will be against fellow Top 20 programs.

Cal Poly will start the season against the University of Tampa on Saturday at 6:45 a.m. PT. That will be followed by a matchup against No. 18 Georgia State at 10:15 a.m. PT and Southern Mississippi at 1:45 p.m. PT. They will then wrap up the weekend by facing host school No. 3 Florida State on Sunday at 6:45 a.m. PT.

The Mustangs have never beat Florida State, losing to the Seminoles last season and in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

Links to follow live stats of each match can be found on the beach volleyball schedule page of GoPoly.com

The Mustangs were 7-2 and ranked fifth in the country in 2020 at the time the rest of the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Cal Poly is still the defending Big West champions after winning it for the first time in 2019, the same year it also made its first NCAA Tournament appearance and finished the season 25‒12.

Under head coach Todd Rogers, who is entering his sixth season, the Mustangs are 82‒56, including a 59‒21 record since 2018.

Despite losing four players from last year’s roster, Cal Poly still has a plethora of talent this season. Some notable returnees include two‒time AVCA All‒American Tia Miric as well as Emily Sonny, Macy Gordon, Jayelin Lombard, Delaney Peranich, and Vanessa Roscoe, each of whom have earned All‒Big West honors in their careers.

This season, Cal Poly welcomes four true freshmen and two transfers to its roster. Among those is Amy Ozee, a transfer from Hawai’i who competed in three NCAA Tournaments and is fifth in program history for career dual match wins. She was also a 2019 AVCA All‒American honorable mention honoree and twice was named All‒Big West.

The Mustangs will be tested many times this season as they are scheduled to face 12 of the 20 teams that are ranked in the AVCA Preseason Top 20 Poll.

Cal Poly will play the first three weeks of the season on the road. They are scheduled to have three home events this season at the Swanson Beach Volleyball Complex on the Cal Poly campus. The first will be Sunday, March 21 with Arizona and Boise State coming to San Luis Obispo. They will host all but one of the Big West teams March 26‒27 and the second annual Center of Effort Beach Volleyball Challenge April 16‒17. However, due to COVID‒19 protocols, fans will not be allowed to attend any of the home matches.

- Connor Leary, Cal Poly Athletics Communications


Mechanics Bank Cal Poly Student-Athlete of the Week: Kieran McNulty

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — After becoming the first Mustang since 2013 to win two individual conference titles at last week’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships, freshman men’s freestyle swimmer Kieran McNulty has been named the Mechanics Bank Cal Poly Student-Athlete of the Week.

McNulty won both the 500-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard (one mile) freestyle events during last week’s conference championship meet, which was hosted at Anderson Aquatic Center for the first time.

On Thursday, Feb. 18 McNulty won the 500 free with a time of 4:23.30, over three seconds ahead of the second place finisher. It was also the fourth fastest time in the event in Cal Poly swimming history and 63rd best time in the NCAA this season.

Then on Saturday, Feb. 20, McNulty won the 1,650 free with a winning time of 15:31.43, nearly nine seconds ahead of second place.

Overall, the Cal Poly men's team finished the MPSF Championships in fourth place while the women's team came in fifth place.

- Connor Leary, Cal Poly Athletics Communications

Jason Anderson is the Digital Producer for the Santa Maria Times. He can be reached at 805-739-2213

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