Pepperdine ends storied Cal Poly season

June 2, 2014

unnamed-2By JOSH FRIEDMAN

Pepperdine won a dramatic final game of the San Luis Obispo Regional 10–6 Sunday night, giving the Waves the regional crown and ending Cal Poly’s most successful season in the history of its baseball program.

Cal Poly fell behind 5-0 Sunday evening. Junior pitcher Danny Zandona retired the first five batters of the game, but never recorded another out. Zandona surrendered five runs with two outs in the second inning, and Head Coach Larry Lee replaced him with junior lefty Taylor Chris.

Chris threw 100 pitches in relief and nearly pitched the remainder of the game, allowing Mustang hitters to get Cal Poly back in the game.

Cal Poly scored lone runs in the third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings to close the gap. Two of the runs came on solo homers by third baseman Jimmy Allen and right fielder Nick Torres.

Then down 6-4 in the bottom of the eighth, Cal Poly rallied, scoring two runs to tie the game.

But, Pepperdine scored four runs in the top of the ninth to take the commanding 10-6 lead. The Waves began the inning by loading the bases with no outs on two weakly hit singles and a bunt that Cal Poly first baseman John Schuknecht stared at but never picked up.

Pepperdine right fielder Bryan Langlois then delivered the knockout blow by tripling to right center and unloading the bases. The tenth run followed when the next batter, center fielder Aaron Brown, hit a sacrifice fly to left.

Cal Poly closer Reed Reilly, who pitched two and a third innings in afternoon game Sunday, relieved Chris for the final two outs.

Chris took his first loss of the season and was charged five runs over six and two thirds innings. Despite surrendering the five runs, Chris probably displayed the most impressive performance of his standout junior season.

In the bottom of the ninth, Torres singled to right, but no other Mustang notched a hit, and the Waves dog piled on the Cal Poly infield.

After the game, coaches of both teams commended the San Luis Obispo community for its attendance and participation in the weekend-long regional.  A total of 2,937 spectators attended Sunday evening’s game, and the Baggett Stadium crowd was louder than ever before.

“The environment that this community and this school put into this was one of the most impressive things we have seen,” Pepperdine Head Coach Steve Rodriguez said after the game.

Cal Poly coach Larry Lee had similar praise.

“Hats off to the entire community,” Lee said. “They packed the place and were into every pitch.”

Cal Poly, which hosted a regional for the first time, finished the 2014 season with a program-best 47-12 record. The Mustangs also won the Big West Conference for the first time and spent most of the season ranked in the top 10 of national polls.

Despite finishing 2-2 in a regional the Mustangs hosted, Lee said the 2014 season was a step forward for the program.

“You try to continue to knock down barriers and you try to put yourself in this position year in and year out,” Lee said.

His post-game remarks were reminiscent of what he said upon elimination from the 2013 Los Angeles Regional. Last year, the Cal Poly baseball program gained some attention for not only making a regional, but winning a game at one.

On Sunday night, Lee said his sophomore know nothing other than playing in regionals.

“You’re going to win a regional one of these days,” Lee said.

The 2015 Mustangs will return a lot of talent, but just how many key players will return is unclear. Numerous players on the Cal Poly roster are eligible for selection in this week’s Major League Baseball draft.

Ace pitcher Matt Imhof is expected to go in the first two rounds of the draft, and right fielder Nick Torres and closer Reed Reilly will likely hear their names called in the top 10 rounds as well.

Other juniors, including Chris, reliever Bryan Granger and outfielder Zach Zehner, could receive offers from Major League teams that would tempt them to leave Cal Poly.

The Mustangs will also graduate Allen and catcher Chris Hoo, two stalwarts of the program. Allen has started every game since late in the 2011 season, and Lee has often called Hoo the team’s most valuable player.

But, the majority of Cal Poly’s lineup will return, including Big West Player of the Year Mark Mathias, slick fielding shortstop Peter Vangansen and slugging designated hitter Brian Mundell.

The Mustangs will also return a clear ace pitcher in Casey Bloomquist, who had a breakout year as a sophomore.

As the Mustangs reflect on their season and prepare for the draft or next year, Pepperdine (42-16) will get ready for a trip to Fort Worth. The Waves will face TCU in a best-of-three super regional next weekend with a trip to the College World Series in Omaha on the line.


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