Cal Poly pounds Irvine to capture series

May 11, 2014
Nick Torres home run swing in Sunday's route of Irvine. Was it his last at Baggett Stadium?

Nick Torres home run swing in Sunday’s route of Irvine. Was it his last at Baggett Stadium?

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Cal Poly scored two runs in each of the first five innings Sunday and beat UC Irvine 10-3 in a series clinching victory against the first-place Anteaters.

After scoring three runs combined on Friday and Saturday, the Mustangs collected 16 hits, including five for extra bases, in the 10-run outburst. Junior right fielder Nick Torres led the Cal Poly offense with three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored. Torres, a Major League Baseball draft prospect, hit a fifth-inning home run in what could have been his final game at Baggett Stadium.

With the victory, however, chances are strong that Cal Poly will host an NCAA Tournament regional later this month. The top 16 seeded teams in the 64-team tournament will host 4-team, double elimination regionals.

With just four games remaining in Cal Poly’s regular season, the Mustangs are ranked in the top 10 in the country in most polls and are 16th in the computer-generated Rating Percentage Index (RPI). The NCAA selection committee heavily weighs RPI in awarding at large bids to the tournament but does not necessarily do so in picking schools to host regionals.

Cal Poly does not need to win its conference in order to host a regional, but claiming the Big West Conference championship would likely improve its chances. The Mustangs are now 16-5 in the Big West, slightly trailing Irvine, which is 15-3.

Cal Poly’s final regular season series is this weekend at Cal State Northridge. Irvine will host Cal State Fullerton this weekend and then travel to Long Beach in the final weekend of the regular season when Cal Poly has a bye.

If the Mustangs were to sweep Northridge, Irvine would have to win five of its final six conference games to claim the Big West title.

In a post-game interview Sunday, Head Coach Larry Lee, as usual, said he is focusing on none of this.

“It doesn’t matter. Think small,” Lee said. “We don’t think about anything ahead.”

Following Sunday’s victory, Cal Poly is 41-10 overall, which is the fourth best record in the country. Their strength of schedule, though, is ranked 118th and will drop this week as Cal Poly plays Saint Mary’s (15-35) on Tuesday and Northridge (18-32) Friday through Sunday.

Strength of schedules accounts for 75 percent of the RPI formula. Cal Poly must win its final four games in order to finish with a top-16 RPI, according to number-crunching website boydsworld.com.

Franklin's devil horns did not help Irvine starter Evan Brock deceive Cal Poly hitters.

Franklin’s devil horns did not help Irvine starter Evan Brock deceive Cal Poly hitters.

On the field Sunday, Cal Poly received significant contributions from its two seniors starting on Senior Day. Third baseman Jimmy Allen had two hits, including a double, and both drove in and scored a run. Catcher Chris Hoo had three hits, two RBIs and a run scored.

Allen made his 175th consecutive start Sunday, which is a streak that dates back to his freshman year. Hoo, a catcher known for his defense, raised his batting average to .314.

Sophomore right hander Casey Bloomquist pitched six innings Sunday, earning the win for Cal Poly. He allowed two runs on five hits before yielding to relievers Taylor Chris and Reed Reilly. Bloomquist is now 11-1 with a 1.52 ERA.

Senior righty Brock Evan took the loss for Irvine. Brock, dubbed Evil Evan by Anteater super fan Keith Franklin, gave up nine hits and four earned runs in two and a third innings.


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