Cal Poly collides with itself, loses lead and game to Pepperdine
May 31, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Like last year, Cal Poly blew a lead and lost the second game of its regional after a routine fly ball fell to the outfield grass.
The Mustangs led Pepperdine 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning in the most pivotal game of the San Luis Obispo Regional. But Pepperdine rallied to win 2-1 after Mustang left fielder Zach Zehner and center fielder Jordan Ellis collided while trying to catch a fly ball off the bat of Waves catcher Aaron Barnett.
Barnett ended up on third with one out in the Pepperdine seventh. Waves second baseman Hutton Moyer then doubled off the wall scoring Barnett.
After the next Pepperdine batter struck out, shortstop Manny Jefferson hit a flare over first base, which Cal Poly first baseman John Schuknecht tracked down but bobbled and dropped. Moyer scored on the play, and Cal Poly hitters went down easily in both the eighth and ninth innings.
In a postgame press conference, Zehner took responsibility for the outfield miscue. Zehner said he was camped under the ball and called for it first, but Ellis, who as the center fielder has priority, called him off.
“I should have just got out of the way,” Zehner said.
Ellis called for it early enough, Zehner said.
The miscue reminded many of a year ago when Mustang right fielder Nick Torres lost a ball in the lights at Jackie Robinson Stadium in the Los Angeles Regional. The play wiped away a three-run sixth inning lead Cal Poly had over UCLA.
Cal Poly lost that game 6-4, and UCLA went on to win the national championship.
Unlike 2013, the Mustangs entered this year’s regional as the host team and favorite to win. They now must win three games in two days in order to do so.
Cal Poly will face Sacramento State in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Sunday at Baggett Stadium. If they win, they will face Pepperdine again at 6 p.m. Sunday.
In order to win the regional, Cal Poly must beat Pepperdine Sunday evening and again Monday evening. The Waves, though, need just one more win in order to win the regional.
Pepperdine Head Coach Steve Rodriguez said after the game that luck is now on the Waves’ side.
“This might be the regional where the fortuitous bounces kind of went our way,” Rodriguez said. “Getting some lucky bounces and god being good really helped us.”
Each of the runs in Saturday’s pitchers’ duel came following defensive miscues.
Pepperdine committed three errors in the first two innings, and Waves starter Aaron Brown surrendered an unearned run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Mustang second baseman Mark Mathias.
Cal Poly had runners on first and third with no outs and the bases loaded with one out in the second inning but only managed to score the lone run. Third baseman Jimmy Allen made the first out of the inning at home plate on a base running miscue.
After the second inning, Brown regained his command. He ended up throwing 121 pitches over eight innings, allowing just three hits and the one unearned run.
Cal Poly starter Casey Bloomquist threw seven scoreless innings before giving up the two runs in the eighth. Bloomquist was charged with one earned run, as the misplayed fly ball was ruled a triple.
Bloomquist threw eight complete innings on just 91 pitches while taking the hard-luck loss.
All season long, Cal Poly’s pitching depth has been Head Coach Larry Lee’s primary concern. Mustang pitchers now have their work cut out for them as the team must win three games in two days, and Cal Poly’s two reliable starters have already pitched deep into games this weekend.
Lee said that the longer the regional carries on, the more it benefits offenses, but his team is in not great pitching shape heading into Sunday.
Freshman Justin Calomeni will start for the Mustangs Sunday afternoon against Sacramento State.
Junior Danny Zandona would make for a likely candidate to start against Pepperdine Sunday if he does not pitch in relief the afternoon game. Lee said, though, that he is not looking beyond the Sacramento State match-up.
Zandona started for Cal Poly against Pepperdine earlier this month and beat Waves starter Jackson McClellland, a likely candidate to start Sunday evening.
The lone comforting note for Cal Poly’s pitching situation is that reliable relievers Reed Reilly and Taylor Chris are well rested. Reilly threw 15 pitches Friday, and Chris has yet to pitch in the regional.
Both Reilly and Chris often pitch several innings at a time.
Cal Poly’s loss Friday came before a sellout crowd of 2,941 spectators. Tickets are still available for Sunday’s 1 p.m. elimination game.
Redshirt freshman Justin Dillon (4-1, 3.23) will start for Sacramento State against Calomeni (8-2, 3.50) for Cal Poly.