Mustangs (5-11) Lose Two of Three Games to Baylor; Pepperdine Game Rained Out; Sooners (14-4) Win Two of Three Against San Diego State
SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly (5-11, 0-0 Big West), which won two of three games in the second annual MLB4 Tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz., including a dramatic 9-8 victory over defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt, but has dropped 10 of 13 games since, including a 3-8 mark at home, hosts Oklahoma (14-4, 0-0 Big 12) for a four-game weekend series inside Baggett Stadium.
First pitches are set for Thursday and Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 1 o’clock. All four games of the series will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Chris Sylvester and Eric Burdick calling the play-by-play. Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.
At the MLB4 Tournament, Coach Larry Lee’s Mustangs shut out Connecticut 5-0, lost to No. 8 Michigan 8-5 and concluded tournament play with a walk-off win against Vanderbilt. After squandering 3-0 and 7-2 leads, the Mustangs scored twice in the bottom of the ninth inning on sacrifice flies by Cole Cabrera and Tate Samuelson.
Cal Poly has lost each of its three midweek games to Pepperdine, Fresno State and Santa Clara and has gone 1-3 against BYU, 1-2 versus Michigan and 1-2 against Baylor the last three weekends inside Baggett Stadium. The series against Oklahoma will be Cal Poly’s second straight against a Big 12 team and the fourth consecutive weekend series at home.
Three of Cal Poly’s five wins have ended in walk-off fashion. In addition to the Vanderbilt contest, the Mustangs edged Michigan 5-4 in the middle game of the series as Taison Corio led off the ninth inning with a double and eventually scored the tying run, then singled to deep center field to knock in the winning run in the 10th. In the opener against Baylor, Cabrera singled down the left-field line with two outs and the bases loaded in the 11th inning for a 2-1 Mustang victory.
The win over UConn on Valentine’s Day gave Cal Poly a victory in its season opener for the seventh time in the last nine years. Mustang head coach Larry Lee is 11-7 in the first game of the year.
Oklahoma won two of three games against San Diego State last weekend in Norman, winning the finale 9-8 in 10 innings as Peyton Graham scored from second base on a grounder to the right side. The Sooners opened the year with a 2-1 series win at Virginia followed by a 3-1 mark versus Illinois State and a 2-1 record in the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children College Classic inside Minute Maid Park in Houston, defeating No. 6 Arkansas and No. 11 LSU along with a loss to Missouri.
Oklahoma earned its second shutout of the season, blanking Texas-Arlington 3-0 on Tuesday night, opening a five-game road trip. Seven pitchers combined on the five-hitter and the Sooners scored single runs in the second, fourth and ninth innings.
The Mustangs returned 10 of the 11 position players who started 20 or more games in 2019 and eight of last year’s 13 pitchers. The group of veterans is paced by junior corner infielder Tate Samuelson, who has led Cal Poly in home runs and RBIs each of the last two years, senior center fielder Bradlee Beesley, who is in or near the all-time top 10 in several offensive categories at Cal Poly, and junior right-hander Taylor Dollard, who was 5-0 with a 2.89 ERA and four saves as a relief pitcher a year ago and is making the switch to the weekend rotation this spring as the Mustangs’ Friday night starter.
Junior left fielder Cole Cabrera, Cal Poly’s leadoff hitter this year, went 6-for-15 in the MLB4 Tournament with two doubles, a pair of RBIs and four runs scored to lead the Mustangs in Scottsdale. Senior center fielder Bradlee Beesley and junior first baseman Tate Samuelson hit safely in Cal Poly’s first nine games of the season before Michigan snapped both streaks. The Wolverines also halted senior catcher Myles Emmerson’s six-game hitting streak, which included his third career four-hit game in the second game of the doubleheader versus BYU.
Emmerson was 9-for-18 at the plate in the BYU series and threw out four would-be Cougar base stealers, two in each game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Samuelson and Beesley each added seven hits — Samuelson driving in three runs to lift his team-leading season total to nine in 12 games.
During the first three weeks of the season, Cal Poly’s starters on the mound combined for a 2.84 ERA but the relievers owned a collective 5.08 ERA. Despite winning three of four games, BYU was held to just a .174 team batting average in the series. Michigan hit .265 in winning two of three games of a series in which Cal Poly had the lead in all three games.
The Mustangs, who committed nine errors in the MLB4 Tournament, including seven in the loss to Michigan, have shored up the defense. Cal Poly has committed 12 errors in its last 13 contests, including an error-free performance in the Baylor series last weekend. Cal Poly is No. 7 in the nine-team Big West, however, with its .966 fielding percentage and 18 of the 88 runs the Mustang pitching staff has allowed so far this season are unearned.
Cal Poly’s offense has struggled, hitting just .231 through 16 games, No. 8 in the Big West. The Mustangs compiled team batting averages of .252 in the MLB4 Tournament, .268 versus BYU, .180 against Michigan and .250 in the Baylor series.
Oklahoma posted a 33-23 record last year, finishing tied for sixth place in the Big 12 and missing out on an NCAA regional playoff berth. Skip Johnson (third season, 85-52, Texas-Pan American ‘90) has 19 returning lettermen, including eight position starters and 10 pitchers, led by catcher Brady Lindsly (.291, five home runs, 34 RBIs in 2019), first baseman Tyler Hardman (.306, six home runs, 42 RBIs) and shortstop Brandon Zaragoza (.257, 30 RBIs). The pitching staff is paced by right-hander Cade Cavalli (5-3, 3.28 ERA in 2019) and southpaw Levi Prater (7-4, 3.26 ERA). Closer Jason Ruffcorn (2-2, 2.43 ERA, 11 saves in 2910), a right-hander, also returns).
So far this season, Tanner Treadway leads the Sooners offensively with a .378 average with six doubles, four triples, three home runs and 14 RBIs with five steals in six attempts. Graham follows with a .358 mark, eight doubles, three home runs, 10 RBIs and eight steals in nine tries and catcher Justin Mitchell is hitting .310 with four doubles, a pair of home runs and eight RBIs. Sophomore right-hander Wyatt Olds is off to a 4-0 start and 1.89 ERA with 29 strikeouts over 19 innings while Cavalli is 1-2 with a 4.18 ERA. Ruffcorn has five saves to his credit and has not given up a run in seven outings (eight innings).
The Sooners have made 38 NCAA regional appearances, reaching the College World Series 10 times and claiming national titles in 1951 and 1994. Oklahoma last earned a spot in the College World Series in 2010 and claimed Big 12 crowns in 1997 and 2013.
Cal Poly and Oklahoma are playing their second weekend series against each other in baseball. The Mustangs dropped all three games opening the 2019 season in Norman by scores of 4-1, 9-3 and 5-2. Cal Poly has played other teams in the Big 12, including Nebraska, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
Johnson was the pitching coach at Oklahoma in 2017 before he was named the Sooners’ 10th head baseball coach in June 2017. Prior to coming to Oklahoma, Johnson spent a 25-year coaching career in the state of Texas, including the most recent 10 years as an assistant and associate head coach at the University of Texas. He also was head coach for 13 years at Navarro College of the NJCAA’s Texas Eastern Athletic Conference. Johnson began his collegiate playing career at Ranger (Texas) College, North Texas and UT-Pan American.
Cal Poly’s top hitters to date are senior catcher Myles Emmerson with a .317 mark, junior left fielder Cole Cabrera at .274 and senior center fielder Bradlee Beesley with a .262 average. Junior first baseman Tate Samuelson is at .254 with a team-leading 10 RBIs.
Despite three no-decisions, Dollard has compiled a 1.67 ERA, No. 4 in the Big West, with 36 strikeouts over 27 innings and a .206 opponents batting average. Freshman Drew Thorpe, who struck out 13 BYU batters in a 10-0 win Feb. 22, sports a 1-1 mark and 3.21 ERA while junior southpaw Andrew Alvarez (0-1, 3.63 ERA) has struck out 23 batters over 22 1/3 innings and also has three no-decisions.
Sophomore righty Bryan Woo (1-3, 3.57 ERA) tossed five scoreless innings in relief for the win versus Baylor last week and also allowed just one run over five innings against BYU. He struck out five in both contests.
The Mustangs are playing 35 of their 59 games at home this season, including five consecutive weekend series against BYU, Michigan, Baylor, Oklahoma and San Diego State. Cal Poly hosts UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and UC Davis for Big West series in April and May.
Cal Poly won the Big West title in 2014 and has placed second six times, third four times and fourth six times since 2000, posting a combined record of 310-258 in 23 years as a member of the Big West.
Cal Poly won seven of its 15 weekend series in addition to a 2-2 split with Saint Mary’s in 2019. Along with their sweep of Columbia to halt an early season 2-9 slide, the Mustangs swept CSUN, UC Davis and Long Beach State en route to a 12-2 start in Big West play, finishing 17-7 and two games behind UC Santa Barbara. A win on the final day of the season would have resulted in a tie for first place between the Mustangs and Gauchos and Cal Poly would have attained the conference’s automatic qualifying berth in the NCAA regionals. The Mustangs won six of their eight Big West series.
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 187 of their last 270 home games for a 69.3 winning percentage.
Lee (546-430-2) is one win shy of the Big West record for overall wins held by Fresno State’s Bob Bennett (547) and, during the UC Davis series last year, he surpassed Cal Poly alum and former Long Beach State head coach Dave Snow with his 219th conference win. Snow guided the Dirtbags to 218 Big West wins from 1989-2001.
Lee reached the 500-victory milestone on April 20, 2018, with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. He earned 460 wins in 16 seasons at Cuesta College and notched his 460th Mustang victory on March 13, 2017 against Gonzaga and his 1,000th career victory with a 3-0 triumph at UC Santa Barbara on May 23, 2019. He opened the 2020 campaign with a 1,001-660-5 record over 33 seasons.
Next week, Cal Poly hosts San Diego State for a three-game weekend series (Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 4 o’clock and Sunday at 1 p.m.).
(Photo contributed by Cal Poly Athletics) Brooks Lee from SLO High watching his two-run double sail into the gap in right-center field in seventh inning Sunday.