SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (13-17 overall, 4-2 Big West), which opened Big West Conference play by winning four of six games for second place but also has allowed 16 runs in three of its last four games, hits the road for its next two Big West series, beginning with UC Davis (10-15 overall, 3-3 Big West) this weekend inside Dobbins Stadium. Coach Larry Lee’s Mustangs and the Aggies of eighth-year head coach Matt Vaughn square off at 2:30 p.m. Friday, 2 o’clock Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
All three games of the series will be broadcast on ESPN Radio (1280 AM and 101.7 FM) with Chris Sylvester providing the play-by-play. Links for live stats and audio and video streams are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly has won 11 of its last 19 games after a 2-9 start, sweeping Columbia in a four-game series, splitting four games versus Saint Mary’s and opening Big West play with 2-1, 3-1 and 4-2 victories over CSUN two weeks ago inside Baggett Stadium. Last week, the Mustangs fell to Santa Clara, 7-6, in 10 innings on Tuesday and dropped two of three Big West contests versus Cal State Fullerton, claiming the middle game 5-3 in an ESPNU telecast Saturday night.
Coming off an 18-35 campaign, including a 9-15 mark for eighth place in the Big West Conference, UC Davis returned 24 letter winners, including six position starters and 11 pitchers. Top returnees are infielders Tanner Murray (.333, 22 RBI in 2018), Joseph Myers (.328, 10 RBI) and Cameron Briggs (.296, 17 RBI). The pitching staff is led by right-handers Jared Sasaki (4-6, 4.34 ERA in 2018) and Blake Hannah (2-8, 7.57 ERA) and southpaw Chris Brown (4-5, 5.14 ERA).
Coached by Vaughn (eighth season, 165-240-1, UC Davis ‘92), UC Davis has a .276 team batting average through 25 games. The Aggies have stolen 48 of 68 bases, sport a 5.84 staff ERA and have compiled a .966 fielding percentage with 31 errors in 25 games.
The Aggies were 6-4 three weeks into the 2019 season, sweeping Northern Colorado in a three-game series and claiming three of four games against Utah Valley while losing all three gams at Arizona State. UC Davis, however, has lost 11 of its last 15 contests, swept by Pepperdine and splitting six Big West games, winning two of three versus UC Riverside and losing two of three at Hawai’i.
Top Aggie hitters to date are Murray with a .415 average, nine doubles and 12 RBI, catcher Logan Denholm (.333, 11 doubles, three home runs, 18 RBI) and first baseman/outfielder Alejandro Lara (.311, six doubles, 13 RBI). The pitching staff is paced by Brown (2-3, 3.24 ERA) and righties Brett Erwin (3-2, 1.95 ERA) and Jake Spillane (1-0, 4.13 ERA).
The Aggies’ top national rankings are No. 29 in stolen bases per game (1.88), No. 37 in both double plays per game (0.88) and doubles per contest (2.00) and No. 34 in walks allowed per nine innings (3.33).
UC Davis has appeared in one NCAA Division I regional (2008) and seven in Division II, making two appearances in the Division II College World Series (1995, 2003). The Aggies won the California Collegiate Athletic Association regular-season title in 2004 and nine Northern California Athletic Conference championships.
Cal Poly and UC Davis have met 48 times on the baseball field since the series began in 1951. Forty-two of those meetings are over the last 14 seasons after the Aggies announced their intention to move to Division I, a transfer that was completed in time for the 2008 season. The Mustangs hold a 36-12 advantage in the series after winning two of three against the Aggies in San Luis Obispo last season.
Cal Poly had won eight consecutive series against UC Davis before the Aggies took two of three games in 2012 in Davis. Cal Poly is 31-11 against UC Davis, including a 21-3 mark in Baggett Stadium, since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season. Larry Lee is 31-11 against UC Davis while Matt Vaughn is 7-14 against Cal Poly.
Vaughn was an assistant at UC Davis for 19 seasons before he was elevated to head coach following the 2011 season. Vaughn pitched for the Aggies from 1989-92, starting 26 games and winning nine. He earned honorable mention All-Northern California Athletic Conference honors as a senior.
Cal Poly will play 17 games against 2018 NCAA Regional participants this spring, is in the midst of a 12-game home stand, will play 30 home games in all and will play 10 contests against Pac-12 schools — three-game series against Cal and USC at home and versus College World Series participant Washington and a single game against Stanford on the road. The Mustangs’ first three series on the road this season — at Oklahoma, Washington and Baylor — were against teams that earned regional berths a year ago along with Cal State Fullerton, Saint Mary’s and Stanford.
Cal Poly has had just three losing seasons since 2000 and has reached the 30-win mark 12 times this century. The Mustangs have won 179 of their last 249 home games for a 71.9 winning percentage.
Cal Poly, which earned NCAA regional berths in 2009, 2013 and 2014, captured its first Big West championship in 2014 and has five second-place finishes, four thirds and six fourths since becoming a member of the conference in 1997. Cal Poly finished in the top five of the Big West standings 14 times in Lee's previous 16 seasons with the Mustangs. Cal State Fullerton is the only other Big West team that can make the same claim.
While all 56 Mustang games in 2017 were played in the Golden State, Cal Poly played four games in a tournament at Surprise, Ariz., visited Nebraska for a four-game series and traveled to Hawai’i for a three-game Big West series in 2018. In addition to Oklahoma and Washington, the Mustangs made another out-of-state trip to Baylor this spring.
Over the last seven seasons from 2012-18, Cal Poly has won 240 games, the third-highest total among the 24 California schools with Division I programs. Averaging 35 wins per season during those seven campaigns, the victory total is eighth among 46 schools in the NCAA’s West Region. In addition, from 2012-14, Cal Poly averaged 41 wins a year with 123 victories, more than any other Division I team in California, and the Mustangs have averaged 32.5 victories per season under Lee’s guidance.
Lee (526-408-2) reached the 500-victory milestone last April 20 with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 526 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State’s Bob Bennett (547) and Lee’s 216 conference wins also are No. 2 in the Big West behind Long Beach State’s Dave Snow (218).
Lee surpassed Berdy Harr (297-249-6 from 1973-83) as Cal Poly's winningest head baseball coach during the Pacific series in 2011. Lee earned 460 wins in 16 seasons at Cuesta College and notched his 460th Mustang victory on March 13, 2017 against Gonzaga. With 986 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee is just 14 victories shy of the 1,000 mark.
Cal Poly, which went 6-6 in its 12-game home stand concluding with Tuesday’s 16-6 loss to Fresno State, follows up this weekend’s road series with another three-game Big West set at Long Beach State on April 18-20 plus a midweek game at Santa Clara on April 23.