NCAA regional coming to Cal Poly
May 26, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The Cal Poly baseball team will host an NCAA regional for the first time in school history this weekend.
Cal Poly finished the regular season with a 45-10 record, the best in program history, and won the Big West Conference, also for the first time. Starting Friday, the Mustangs will host Arizona State, Pepperdine and Sacramento State in one of 16 double elimination regionals in the NCAA Tournament.
The Mustangs will begin tournament play at 6 p.m. Friday against Sacramento State (38-22). If Cal Poly beats Sacramento, as expected, the Mustangs will face the winner of the Pepperdine-Arizona State game in a 6 p.m. Saturday matchup that will place one team in the driver’s seat and the other in the losers’ bracket.
The regional will wrap up either Sunday evening or Monday evening, with the winner advancing to play the winner of the Fort Worth regional, which is hosted by TCU. If both Cal Poly and TCU emerge from their regionals, the Mustangs will travel to Texas the following weekend for a best of three super regional with a birth in the College World Series on the line.
TCU would host the super regional because it received one of the eight national seeds, and Cal Poly did not. The knock against Cal Poly’s resume was the team’s strength of schedule, which NCAA computers ranked 146th in the country.
Mustang Head Coach Larry Lee disputed the ranking during a press conference Monday.
“Our strength of schedule is into the hundreds, and it doesn’t make sense,” Lee said. “On paper it’s a great schedule.”
Quality West Coast teams are not receiving enough credit for frequently playing each other, Lee said.
A few teams Cal Poly played in 2014, including Kansas Sate and defending national champion UCLA did not perform nearly as well as expected. Additionally, Cal Poly played a stretch of nine games against teams ranked in the 200s, which lowered the Mustangs’ strength of schedule ranking.
Of the teams in Cal Poly’s regional, the Mustangs have only faced Pepperdine (39-16) this year. Cal Poly split two Tuesday games with the Waves, with each team winning at home.
Arizona State, a perennial college baseball power, brings a 33-22 record to San Luis Obispo. The Sun Devils finished third in the Pac 12 Conference but had a mediocre year for an elite college program.
In addition to Cal Poly, three other Big West schools received regional bids. Second place finisher Long Beach State will travel to Florida as a 2-seed while Cal State Fullerton is the 3-seed in Oklahoma State’s regional and UC Irvine is the 3-seed at Oregon State.
The NCAA selection committee dubbed Irvine one of the final four teams to qualify for the tournament after the Anteaters lost their last six games of the season.
Cal Poly qualified for the tournament for the second consecutive year and for the third time in six years. The Mustangs have won only one game, though, in their two previous tournament appearances.
Lee said he plans to start Mustang ace Matt Imhof on Friday, followed by sophomore Casey Bloomquist on Saturday. Freshman Justin Calomeni is expected to start Cal Poly’s third game of the regional, but there is a small possibility that junior Danny Zandona will take his place in the rotation.
The Mustangs have a 27-3 record at home this year.
Tickets for the regional have nearly sold out already but are still available for purchase by telephone at (805) 756-4TIX or at gopoly.com.