SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — After opening Big West Conference play with a three-game series sweep against CSUN and extending its winning streak to four with a midweek win at Cal, Cal Poly (11-9, 3-0 Big West) resumes Big West play this weekend by visiting UC San Diego (7-13, 0-0 Big West) for a three-game series inside Triton Ballpark (cap.: 500).
First pitches are set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 o’clock Sunday. All three games will be broadcast on ESPN Radio (1280 AM and 101.7 FM) with Zachary Anderson-Yoxsimer (Friday and Saturday) and Chris Sylvester (Sunday) providing the play-by-play. Links for video (ESPN+) and audio streams as well as live stats are available on the baseball schedule page at www.GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly opened the 2022 season by dropping a pair of one-run decisions against Washington, 6-5 and 4-3, before riding a five-run second-inning uprising to victory over the Huskies in the series finale. True freshman catcher Ryan Stafford led the way with a 5-for-11 performance at the plate with three doubles and one RBI.
Following an 8-4 midweek win over Fresno State — sparked by a two-run home run off the bat of right fielder Matthias Haas in the fifth inning and a three-run double by shortstop Brooks Lee in the sixth — the Mustangs went out on the road and took two of three games from Missouri State in Arlington, Texas, before losing two of three contests at UNLV. Two weeks ago, Cal Poly fell 3-1 to San Jose State on Tuesday and split a four-game weekend set against the Ivy League’s Harvard, winning the first two contests 5-0 and 10-1 before falling 4-3 and 9-4. Drew Thorpe pitched a three-hit shutout in the opener while Brett Borgogno hit a grand slam and Lee produced his first four-hit game as a Mustang in the first game of a March 12 doubleheader.
Cal Poly defeated CSUN 6-4 (rallying from a 4-0 deficit with a decisive five-run eighth-inning outburst), 8-4 and 6-4 to open Big West play last weekend. Stafford was 5-for-12 in the series while Lee was 4-for-10 and Collin Villegas contributed three doubles and four RBIs. The Mustangs parlayed a 15-hit offensive attack, including three home runs and three doubles, into a 14-4 win at Cal on Tuesday. Tate Samuelson homered twice, doubled once and drove in four runs while Lee added his fourth blast of the season, a two-run shot.
In each of its first 10 games this season, Cal Poly held a lead or was tied in the sixth inning or later but lost five of the contests and was 7-9 entering the CSUN series. The Mustangs are back above the .500 mark for the first time since winning the opener of their series against Missouri State on Feb. 26, lifting their mark to 3-2. Cal Poly lost three of four games to UC San Diego last season and will be playing its first games at Triton Ballpark this weekend.
In their second year of transition to Division I and second season in the Big West, the Tritons have won seven of 20 games so far, winning three of four games against Seattle and two of three versus Washington en route to a 6-2 start. UC San Diego, however, has lost 11 of its last 12 contests, snapping a 10-game losing streak with an 8-7 win over Connecticut on Monday. The Tritons fell 14-7 to crosstown rival San Diego State on Tuesday.
UC San Diego is hitting .268 as a team with 40 doubles, seven triples and 14 home runs, scoring 112 runs in its 20 games so far. The Tritons are second in the Big West in doubles (40), tied for first in triples (7), first in strikeouts by the hitters (192) and second in grounding into double plays. The pitching staff has compiled a 5.35 ERA with 172 strikeouts over 176.2 innings, and the Tritons have committed 27 errors for a .965 fielding percentage.
UC San Diego has a long history of success in the lower divisions. As a Division III independent from 1980 through 2000, the Tritons earned five NCAA regional playoff berths, including trips to the College World Series in 1987 and 1994. As a Division II member of the California Collegiate Athletic Association from 2001-19, UC San Diego made five College World Series appearances, including runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2017, and earned regional playoff berths 13 times. The Tritons were CCAA tournament champions six times and claimed the CCAA regular season title four times.
Cal Poly and UC San Diego are meeting in baseball for only the second year this weekend. The Tritons won the first three games of a four-game Big West series a year ago in Baggett Stadium by 5-2, 12-9 and 6-1 scores before the Mustangs salvaged a win in the finale, 6-2, as then-freshman right-hander Bryce Warrecker earned his first collegiate victory and second baseman Taison Corio drove in three runs with a double and triple. Warrecker struck out three, walked two and scattered three hits, retiring 12 of the final 13 batters of his stint on the mound after giving up two runs on three hits and a Mustang error in the first inning. Corio (5-for-9), Matt Lopez (6-for-13) and Joe Yorke (5-for-15) were Cal Poly’s top hitters in the series and the trio combined for eight RBIs.
Triton head coach Eric Newman (11th season, 340-203, Texas Tech ’97) took over the Triton baseball program when Dan O’Brien, head coach at UC San Diego for 14 seasons from 1998-2011) became head coach at Santa Clara in 2012. Newman is a three-time ABCA/Diamond West Region Coach of the Year and twice earned CCAA Coach of the Year honors.
Newman has compiled 40-win seasons three times (2017-19) and each of his first nine campaigns with the Tritons resulted in winning records. Prior to arriving at La Jolla, Newman was the pitching coach at Nebraska (2008-11) and served as associate or head coach at Dallas Baptist (2002-07). A draft selection of the San Diego Padres, he played eight seasons of professional baseball. Newman played two seasons at Fresno State before finishing his collegiate career at Texas Tech. He earned a master’s degree in higher education from Dallas Baptist in 2004 and received a bachelor’s degree in family studies at Texas Tech in 1997.
Picked by the Big West head coaches to finish ninth this year, UC San Diego welcomed back a total of 23 letter winners, including four position starters and nine pitchers. Top returnees include shortstop Michael Fuhrman (.352, 18 RBIs, 10 steals in 2021) and outfielders Anthony Lucchetti (.312, 22 RBIs) and Brock Kleszcz (.220). The pitching staff is paced by Michael Mitchell (4-1, 3.00 ERA, five saves in 2021), Noah Conlon (3-5, 6.11 ERA, one save) and Aren Alvarez (3-8, 7.32 ERA), all right-handers.
Twenty games into the 2022 season, third baseman Jalen Smith leads all UC San Diego hitters with a .368 average, seven doubles, three triples, four steals and seven RBIs. Fuhrman is next at .301 with eight doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs, followed by right fielder Austin Smith (.297, four doubles, two home runs, 16 RBIs). Leading the pitching staff are Matthew Dalquist (1-0, 2.11 ERA) and Ryan Forcucci (0-1, 4.95 ERA), both right-handers with four starts.
Lee welcomed back 22 lettermen off last year’s squad, including seven position starters and all but three pitchers. The 2022 Mustang roster, bolstered by the addition of three transfers from Boise State and one from Washington State a year ago, has added a pair of graduate students this spring in infielder Brett Borgogno (Cal State Fullerton and Louisiana-Lafayette) and outfielder John Lagattuta (Cal) along with utility player Matthias Haas, a transfer from Brown.
Topping the list of returnees is five-time 2021 All-American Brooks Lee, a preseason All-American five times as well this spring. Projected to be a top-five draft pick in July, Lee hit a team-leading .342 with 10 home runs, 57 RBIs and a school-record 27 doubles as a redshirt freshman in 2021 en route to Big West Co-Field Player of the Year and Co-Freshman Field Player of the Year honors.
The group of returnees also includes designated hitter Matt Lopez, third baseman Tate Samuelson, first baseman Joe Yorke, second baseman Nick Marinconz, utility player Taison Corio and pitchers Drew Thorpe, Travis Weston, Bryce Warrecker, Kyle Scott and Dylan Villalobos, among several others.
The entire infield is back as Yorke made 54 starts at first base, Marinconz (27) and Corio (23) combined for 50 starts at second base, Lee started 54 games at shortstop and Samuelson was in the starting lineup 53 times at third base.
Lopez was second on the team in hitting at .341 with 26 RBIs in 39 games.
The outfield is a work in progress with the loss of Cole Cabrera in center field, Sam Biller in left and Nick DiCarlo in right. Reagan Doss, who started 21 games in the outfield last year and hit .258 with six doubles and 13 RBIs in 37 games, replaces Cabrera in center field. A pair of catchers lead the depth chart in left field — Ryan Stafford of Folsom High School and returnee Collin Villegas — while Haas of Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School and Brown and Lagattuta of Davis Senior High School and Cal likely will share duties in right field. Villegas and Stafford are listed 1-2 behind the plate.
On the mound Drew Thorpe was 6-1 with a 3.15 ERA in home games last spring, finishing with a 6-6 mark and 3.79 ERA. He led the squad in strikeouts with 104, which is No. 10 all-time in the Cal Poly record book, and compiled double-digit strikeouts three times in 2021. Travis Weston (5-6, 3.28 ERA) earned three complete games, the most by a Mustang pitcher since Joey Wagman also collected three complete games in 2013. Weston was a starter in Saturday doubleheaders.
Thorpe and Weston will start Friday and Saturday, respectively, for the second year in a row. Sophomore Kaden Sheedy (1-2, 5.40 ERA in 2021) got the nod for the first four Sunday games this season with freshman right-hander Steven Brooks of Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove, Calif., starting the midweek contests. Sheedy made four starts in the final six weeks of the 2021 season, including a complete-game three-hitter with six strikeouts in the series finale at UC Davis.
So far this season, Lee leads all Mustang hitters with a Big West-leading .430 mark, which includes 14 doubles, a triple, four home runs and 27 RBIs. He is on pace to surpass his own school doubles record (27) set last year as well as his 57 total RBIs in 2021. Freshman catcher/left fielder Ryan Stafford is hitting .337 with nine doubles and a pair of home runs while sophomore second baseman Nick Marinconz sports a .360 average with two doubles, both at Cal earlier this week.
The Mustangs have a combined 334-277 conference record (.547 winning percentage) in 24-plus years as a member of the Big West (no conference games were played in 2020), the last 18-plus under Lee. Cal Poly has had just three losing seasons since 2000 and has reached the 30-win mark 13 times this century, including 2021. The Mustangs have won 215 of their last 316 home games for a 68.0 winning percentage.
Since and including 2011, Cal Poly is the only Big West team to have a winning or .500 overall record each year (excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 season). Also since 2011, Cal Poly is the only Big West team to finish at least fourth or higher every year, including one first place, five seconds, one third and three fourths.
Since 2011, Lee has guided the Mustangs to wins in 59 of 92 Big West series with a pair of 2-2 splits for a 64.1 winning percentage. The Mustangs won seven of eight conference series in both 2014 and 2017. Cal Poly is the only Big West team to have a winning overall record in each full season since 2011 and the Mustangs are the only Big West team to finish fourth place or higher every year. Since 2003, Cal Poly has finished below fourth place only twice.
Cal Poly has had 19 MLB draft picks in the top 10 rounds since and including 2011. Only Cal State Fullerton has had more with 22. The next tier are three teams with a total of 10 in that time span. Cal Poly has had a total of 34 top-10 round MLB draft picks in the last 18 years.
Since 2012, Cal Poly has had eight Division I All-Americans. Also, since 2003, Cal Poly has had 11 players make it to the Major Leagues. In the rest of the history of the program, there were nine to have made it to The Show.
Cal Poly is seventh among 25 California Division I schools and 10th in the West Region (47 schools) with 299 wins over the last nine years (not counting 2020).
Lee (20th season, 588-464-2, Pepperdine ’83) surpassed Fresno State’s Bob Bennett for the Big West record for overall wins with a 2-1 series-opening win at USC in February 2021. During the UC Davis series in 2019, Lee eclipsed 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 currently has a 1,048-705-5 record over 35-plus seasons as a head coach and coached his 1,000th game as Cal Poly’s head coach on April 1, 2021, a 10-1 win over UC San Diego.
Cal Poly returns home next week for games Tuesday against Santa Clara (6 p.m.) and a four-game non-conference series versus Dixie State (Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday doubleheader at 1 and 4:30 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.).