Cal Poly clinches Fullerton series on 13th inning walk-off
April 18, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
Cal Poly junior right fielder Nick Torres hit a walk-off double Friday night, capping a 13-inning, 4-3 victory over Cal Sate Fullerton and clinching a Big West series over the former conference frontrunner.
Poly Head Coach Larry Lee went for the series win in the second of three games and risked entering a Saturday rubber match with an exhausted bullpen. With the Mustangs trailing by one run and later tied with Fullerton, Lee pitched Cal Poly’s two reliable relievers for a total of seven and two thirds innings.
Lefty Taylor Chris entered the game in the sixth and pitched three scoreless innings. Closer Reed Reilly relieved Chris with one out in the ninth inning and the go-ahead run at third base. Reilly struck out two Titans to escape the jam and then dominated Fullerton in extra innings to earn the win.
Reilly pitched scoreless 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th innings without even allowing a baserunner. The junior closer struck out nine Titans over four and two thirds innings of relief. The only Titan to reach base against Reilly did so on an intentional walk in the ninth.
Fullerton, which took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning, did not score a run over the final nine innings of the extra-inning affair. The Titans became so desperate for offense late in the game that one Fullerton hitter nearly attempted a bunt with a two-strike count and no one on base.
The Cal Poly offense totaled 17 hits, but it squandered several opportunities to win the game. In one such chance, Hoo was on second and Hoo was standing at the plate.
Cal Poly catcher Chris Hoo and infielder Michael Hoo are brothers. Chris Hoo, who had already delivered one walk-off hit this year, came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the twelfth and his brother standing on second. He grounded out, though, to end the inning.
The bottom of the thirteenth began with a single by second baseman Mark Mathias. After a botched bunt attempt by center fielder Jordan Ellis, Torres came to the plate with Mathias on first and one out. Mathias was running on the pitch when Torres launched a deep flyball to left that flew over the head of the Fullerton left fielder.
Mathias scored easily, and the Mustang bench stormed the field.
The victory bumped Cal Poly’s overall record to 33-5 and its conference mark to 10-1. Fullerton fell to 18-15 and 3-5 in the Big West.
The Titans, currently playing without their suspended head coach, are facing the possibility of not even making the postseason despite entering the year ranked first in the nation in multiple polls.
Prior to Friday’s game, college baseball experts were speculating whether the Fullerton program had hit rock bottom.
Cal Poly, on the other hand, is enjoying more baseball success than ever before. The Mustangs are ranked third nationally, are undefeated in weekend series and are way ahead in the conference standings of its expected competitors for the Big West crown.
The only apparent flaw in Cal Poly’s squad remains its Saturday starting pitching, or in the case of Easter weekend, its Friday starter. Freshman Slater Lee started the game Friday night and pitched four innings, allowing three runs.
To start the fifth, Larry Lee replaced Slater Lee with junior reliever Bryan Granger, who bridged the gap between the freshman righty and Chris.
Slater Lee’s ERA is now 5.57, and he could trade rotation places next week with fellow freshman righty Justin Calomeni for the third time this season. Calomeni pitched very well in a victory over Bakersfield on Tuesday, and he has a much better record and a much lower ERA than Slater Lee. But, Calomeni has also struggled when placed in the weekend rotation.
On Sunday, Cal Poly will turn to undefeated sophomore Casey Bloomquist as it goes for the sweep of Fullerton. The Titans will counter with reliable junior Grahamm Wiest.
First pitch for Saturday’s series finale is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Baggett Stadium.