Cal Poly clinches UCLA series with 9-1 win

February 24, 2014
Zehner UCLA Slide

Left fielder Zack Zehner slides in safe at home Sunday. Zehner’s consistent hitting has created lineup questions in left field and at first and second base.

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

(Editor’s note: Video of the final out of the series with Cal Poly radio announcer Eric Burdick making the call is at the bottom of the story.)

Baseball geek chatrooms will be ablaze Monday with talk of Cal Poly’s weekend performance in Los Angeles.

Cal Poly (6-1) clinched a series victory over defending national champion UCLA with a 9-1 win Sunday. On Saturday, Cal Poly won 8-0. UCLA, ranked 12th nationally and known for its pitching, had only allowed eight runs on the season entering play Saturday.

Sophomore designated hitter Brian Mundell put Cal Poly on the board with a towering two-run homer in the first inning Sunday. Mundell homered in each of the three games in the UCLA series.

“He’s a specimen,” Cal Poly Coach Larry Lee said after the game. “Hitting wise he’s very mature for his age.”

Mundell had two hits and drove in three runs in the series finale. Right fielder Nick Torres, who homered Saturday, had three hits and two RBIs Sunday. The pair drove in a combined 11 runs on Saturday and Sunday.

Third baseman Jimmy Allen and left fielder Zack Zehner each added two hits Sunday. The team totaled twelve hits in the nine-run performance.

Lee credited the team’s turnaround from a 5-2 loss Friday to plate discipline. Mustang hitters lost their discipline from the third inning on Friday night, but were much more efficient on Saturday and Sunday, Lee said.

Heading into the weekend, baseball experts gave Cal Poly a fair chance of winning the series, largely due to the Mustangs’ hitting abilities. But, few expected the Cal Poly pitching staff to perform the way it did.

After an uncharacteristically poor outing Friday night by ace Matt Imhof, freshman Slater Lee earned a national player of the day award by throwing a shutout Saturday. The staff then combined to throw eight scoreless innings Sunday after allowing one run in the first. Sunday starter Casey Bloomquist picked up the win, only allowing the one run over five innings.

Still, the pitching staff, which entered the season as the team’s biggest question, has yet to win over Lee.

“It’s still a question mark,” Lee said.

Cal Poly’s series victory will vault the Mustangs higher up the national rankings, which pollsters will release Monday. The Mustangs entered the weekend ranked 22nd in the Baseball America poll.

The series victory should also aid Cal Poly’s long term positioning in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The RPI is a computer poll used for team placement in the NCAA Tournament. The better UCLA does over the remainder of the season, the more the computers will shine favorably upon Cal Poly.

Following a game Tuesday at San Jose State, Cal Poly will return to Los Angeles next weekend for a series against an improved USC team that is currently 7-0. The first pitch at Dedeaux Field will be Friday at 6 p.m.

Video of the final out of the UCLA series:


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