Cal Poly postseason run ends in Los Angeles
June 3, 2013
The Cal Poly baseball squad notched its first 40-win season and NCAA Tournament victory at the Divison 1 level in 2013, but the Mustangs failed to break a postseason slide that began Saturday night and continued Sunday.
After squandering a four-run lead in a regional-swinging matchup against UCLA Saturday, Cal Poly dropped an elimination game Sunday afternoon to San Diego. The Mustangs, which defeated the Toreros 9-2 in the Los Angeles Regional opener on Friday, struggled on the mound and in the field in their final game of the 2013 campaign.
San Diego scored three runs in the first three innings off freshman Mustang starter Casey Bloomquist, who allowed five hits and two walks in just the three innings pitched. Cal Poly tied the game 3-3 in the top of the fifth, but catcher Elliot Stewart dropped a pitch with two outs and runners on first and third in the bottom of the inning, allowing the Toreros to take a one run lead. San Diego then added four runs in the sixth on only one hit. Two of the runs followed a throwing error by Mustang first baseman John Schuknecht, whose throw to second on a potential inning ending double play sailed wide of the bag and into left field.
Cal Poly lost the game 8-5 and finished 1-2 in the regional. Host team UCLA, which trailed Cal Poly 4-0 and did not have a hit after five innings Saturday night, defeated San Diego Sunday evening to capture the regional championship and advance to a super regional against Big West Conference champion Cal State Fullerton.
Three Mustang hitters made the all-regional team, led by third baseman Jimmy Allen, who went 3-4 Sunday with two runs batted in. Allen hit .615 in the regional and drove in a total of five runs in the three games.
Mustang center fielder Jordan Ellis and designated hitter Brian Mundell also made the all-regional team.
Cal Poly finished the season 40-19, a program best at the Division 1 level.
Stewart, one of three key seniors who are graduating, said the Mustangs made an impression on observers in 2013.
“We made a statement and kind of put Cal Poly on the map,” Stewart said. “We want the future guys coming through the program to follow our steps and end up making it to a super and ultimately Omaha.”
In order for the team to advance further in the tournament, Head Coach Larry Lee said the program must first establish itself as a regular regional participant.
“If we could get in three out of every four years or four out of every five years, then our players become accustomed to regional play,” Lee said.
But, Lee said making the tournament consistently is a difficult feat for Cal Poly because it rarely has a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking high enough to receive a bid.
“If we were located near a major airport and we had enough money and we didn’t mind missing class time, then we could possibly set up our schedule to have a high RPI,” Lee said. “But, it’s kind of unrealistic where we are.”
In addition to losing graduating seniors Stewart, ace pitcher Joey Wagman and second baseman Denver Chavez, the Mustangs may have a few underclassmen, particularly from the bullpen, jump to the professional ranks.
Lee expects the majority of his lineup to return, but said he will have to rely heavily on incoming freshmen pitchers.
“We have some pretty good freshman kids coming in next year, so we’re hoping to get them right into the equation,” Lee said. “I think we’re going to ask a lot of our incoming freshmen to be able to step up.”
In its final game of the year Sunday, Cal Poly pitchers allowed eight hits and issued eight walks. UCLA pitchers, who also faced San Diego in their third and final regional game Sunday, combined to allow one hit and issue two walks.
“We’re usually a very offensive team and thin on the mound,” Lee said.