Cal Poly erupted for four runs in the first inning and that proved to be just enough as the Mustangs earned a 5-3 victory over UC Santa Barbara in the opening game of a three-game Big West Conference baseball series Friday night inside Baggett Stadium.
Senior first baseman Elijah Skipps highlighted the rally with a two-run double. UC Santa Barbara pulled to within a run with two in the second and one in the third, but Cal Poly added an insurance run in the sixth and held off the Gauchos over the final three frames for the win.
Cal Poly improved to 25-27 for the season and 10-9 in Big West games, tied for fourth place with the winner of the late game between Long Beach State and Hawai’i in Honolulu. The Mustangs beat the Gauchos for the seventh straight time in the Blue-Green Rivalry.
UC Santa Barbara fell to 24-25-1 and 8-11.
Mustang senior southpaw Trent Shelton (5-3) pitched six-plus innings for the win, allowing three runs and seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Austin Dondanville secured seven outs without giving up a run and freshman righty Taylor Dollard notched the final two outs for his third save.
The loss went to Gaucho starter Stevie Ledesma (6-3) as he gave up five runs and seven hits over six innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
Cal Poly’s first four batters of the game all reached base on hits. Alex McKenna and Kyle Marinconz singled and Tate Samuelson knocked in the first run of the game with a single to left field.
Skipps, who hit a three-run home run off Ledesma a year ago at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, smashed a two-run double to the gap in left-center field Friday night to make it 3-0 and Bradlee Beesley’s sacrifice fly to left field scored Skipps for a 4-0 Mustang lead.
UC Santa Barbara answered with two runs in the second frame on a two-run single to right field by third baseman Jason Willow and added another run in the third on catcher Thomas Rowan’s fourth home run of the year.
Scott Ogrin’s line drive off the glove of UCSB first baseman Cole Mueller drove in a Mustang insurance run in the sixth.
The Gauchos struck out into a double play on an interference call in the seventh, left runners at first and second with one out in the eighth on two fly balls and also had runners at first and second with one out in the ninth before Dollard came in to record a called third strike and a fly ball to left field, ending the game.
UCSB outhit Cal Poly 11-7, led by Rowan with a 3-for-3 day at the plate, two singles and a home run. Mueller and center fielder Tommy Jew each added two hits.
Meyer stretched his hitting streak to 14 games with a sixth-inning single while McKenna sports a 12-game hitting streak following his single leading off the first inning for the Mustangs.
Cal Poly’s seven hits were produced by seven different hitters. The two-run first-inning double by Skipps was the lone extra-base hit by the Mustangs in the game.
Second game of the series will be played Saturday at 1 o’clock. Cal Poly will send freshman right-hander Darren Nelson (4-4, 5.40 ERA) to the mound, facing UC Santa Barbara sophomore righty Chris Lincoln (2-3, 3.30 ERA).
The series finale is set for Sunday at 1 o’clock with six Mustang seniors to be honored in a pregame ceremony. They are pitchers Shelton, Dondanville and Kyle Smith, first baseman/designated hitter Elijah Skipps and outfielders Josh George and Colby Barrick.
-Provided by Cal Poly