Cal Poly (2-2), which opened its 2020 baseball season with two wins in three games at the MLB4 Tournament at Scottsdale, Ariz., including a walk-off triumph against defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt, then dropped its home opener versus Pepperdine on Tuesday, continues its 35-game home schedule with a four-game non-conference series this weekend against Brigham Young (2-2).
First pitches are set for 6 p.m. both Thursday and Friday and a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday inside Baggett Stadium. Two of the games will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Chris Sylvester calling the play-by-play. The other two contests will be available via audio stream on GoPoly.com [gopoly.com] with Zachary Anderson-Yoxsimer on the call. Links for audio and video streams as well as live stats are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com [gopoly.com].
Cal Poly let 3-0 and 7-2 leads slip away, but overcame an 8-7 deficit with sacrifice flies by Cole Cabrera and Tate Samuelson in the bottom of the ninth inning to edge Vanderbilt 9-8. The Mustangs also defeated Connecticut 5-0 as Taylor Dollard (seven innings, 10 strikeouts) and Dylan Villalobos (two innings, two strikeouts) combined on a two-hit shutout. In between, Cal Poly fell to No. 8 Michigan 8-5.
The Mustangs dropped their home opener Tuesday to Pepperdine, 9-2, as three Waves pitchers held Cal Poly to just four singles. The Pepperdine offense produced 13 hits, including a double, triple and home run.
The win over UConn 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.
Brigham Young competed in another tournament in Arizona, defeating Gonzaga 7-1 and falling twice to New Mexico 2-0 and 5-4 before bouncing back Monday with a 4-3 win over Oregon State at Surprise Stadium.
The Mustangs return 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 freshman third baseman Nick Marinconz each added four hits while junior first baseman Tate Samuelson drove in five runs.
The Cal Poly pitching staff produced a 2.00 ERA. UConn hit just .091 against Dollard on Friday, all four runs surrendered by Andrew Alvarez were unearned and he struck out seven over 4 2/3 innings and freshman Drew Thorpe tossed seven solid innings in a no-decision against Vanderbilt, allowing two runs and four hits with six strikeouts.
Biggest issue for the Mustangs were the nine errors committed on defense, including seven in the loss to Michigan. Cal Poly is last in the Big West with its .932 fielding percentage and only 13 of the 25 runs the Mustang pitching staff has allowed so far this season are earned.
Brigham Young welcomed back 16 lettermen, including two position starters and nine pitchers off last year’s 36-17 squad which won the West Coast Conference regular season title but was eliminated from the conference tournament. and did not earn an NCAA regional berth.
Top BYU returnees are outfielders Mitch McIntyre (.291, seven home runs, 38 RBIs in 2019) and Danny Gelalich (.328, 16 RBIs) and infielder Austin Deming (.214, 17 RBIs).
The Cougar pitching staff is paced by Justin Sterner (8-3, 2.92 ERA in 2019), Easton Walker (7-3, one save, 2.20 ERA) and Reid McLaughlin (7-1, four saves, 2.61 ERA), all right-handers.
The Cougars are coached by Mike Littlewood (eighth season at BYU (217-162), 14th season overall (436-307), BYU ‘90), who has guided BYU to three conference titles and, in 2017, the school’s first NCAA regional playoff berth since 2002. Littlewood was head coach at Dixie State in St. George, Utah, for 16 years, compiling a 563-238 with eight league titles and four appearances in the National Junior College World Series, winning the title in 2004 and finishing runner-up in 2001.
Littlewood also has coached baseball at Alta High School in Salt Lake City and guided the Zion Pioneerzz—a minor league baseball program in St. George—to the 2001 Western Baseball League championship. As a player, Littlewood played third base at BYU from 1985-88. He was named All-Western Athletic Conference as a junior and All-WAC and All-Region 9 as a senior.
Cal Poly and Brigham Young have played just twice before. The Mustangs earned a 14-5 win in 2002 and BYU countered with an 11-1 victory in 2003.
The Mustangs are playing 35 of their 59 yards 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 the early season 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 184 of their last 259 home games for a 71.0 winning percentage.
Lee (543-420-2) reached the 500-victory milestone on April 20, 2018, with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 541 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State’s Bob Bennett (547) and, during the UC Davis series last year, Lee 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 also is four wins shy of the overall Big West victory mark of 547 held by Fresno State’s Bob Bennett.
Lee, who earned 460 wins in 16 seasons at Cuesta College and notched his 460th Mustang victory on March 13, 2017 against Gonzaga, garnered 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 plays one game at Fresno State on Tuesday before returning home to face Michigan in a three-game series (Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 4 o’clock and Sunday at 1 p.m.
-Provided by Cal Poly