SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (9-4, 0-0 Big West), off to its best start in three years and back in the national polls last week for the first time since the 2009 season, will host Washington (9-3, 0-0 Pac-12) for a three-game weekend series in Baggett Stadium (cap.: 1,734) . The Huskies are the only team Cal Poly will face from the Pac-12 this season.
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs will play the Huskies on Friday and Saturday nights at 6 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 1. First two games of the series will be broadcast either on ESPN Radio 1280 or on the Internet at GoPoly.com. Sunday's game will be on ESPN Radio 1280. Audio and video streams as well as live stats for the series also will be available.
Cal Poly, ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper last week, returns 16 letter winners, including five position starters and five pitchers, off its 2011 squad which finished 27-26 overall and third in the Big West at 15-9. The Mustangs started the year 0-6 before winning 27 of their next 44 games.
Cal Poly is off to a much better start in 2012, sweeping Big 12 Conference member and perennial NCAA regional qualifier Oklahoma State by scores of 6-0, 11-3 and 6-0 in Baggett Stadium on the opening weekend of the season, followed by a 5-2 setback against Santa Clara. The Mustangs began a nine-game road trip by sweeping a four-game series Feb. 24-26 at Loyola Marymount, then went to San Diego State last weekend for the Aztec Invitational and split four contests with wins over Milwaukee and San Francisco following one-run losses to San Diego State and San Diego. On Tuesday Cal Poly fell to Santa Clara 11-6.
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs, who hit .284, produced a .397 on-base percentage and stole four of four bases against the Cowboys, put up even more impressive offensive statistics against the Lions, hitting .346 with eight doubles, a triple, two home runs and another quartet of steals. Cal Poly outscored Oklahoma State 23-3 and Loyola Marymount 36-14. Last weekend the Mustangs hit .267 in four tournament games at Tony Gwynn Stadium while the staff ERA climbed to 4.24. Closers Nick Grim and Chase Johnson, who combined for a 0.00 ERA in the first two weeks of the season, gave up seven earned runs in 3 2/3 innings for a 17.18 ERA in the Aztec Invitational.
The losses to Santa Clara began and ended a stretch of playing eight of 10 games against West Coast Conference schools. The Mustangs were 5-3 against the Broncos, Loyola Marymount, San Diego and San Francisco.
In the Aztec Invitational, freshman right fielder Nick Torres went 7-for-18 (.389) with four doubles and a pair of RBI. Sophomore left fielder/first baseman Tim Wise was 5-for-14 with two RBI while senior shortstop Mike Miller and junior center fielder Mitch Haniger each had five hits -- Haniger driving in six runs with a double and two home runs. First baseman Jordan Brower was 3-for-6.
Cal Poly's top hitter through 13 games is sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen at .404 with 10 RBI. Miller is hitting .362 with 17 runs scored while Torres sports a .353 mark and Haniger .294 with three home runs and 18 RBI.
Washington, coached by Lindsay Meggs (third season at Washington (154-68), 19th season overall (669-375-4), UCLA '85), returned 15 lettermen, including six position starters and six pitchers, off a team which went 17-37 a year ago and finished ninth in the Pac-12 Conference.
The Huskies opened the 2012 season by winning two of three games at San Diego State and at UC Irvine, followed by a four-game sweep at home against St. Joseph's. Washington's pitchers gave up just one earned run and 11 hits in 32 innings against St. Joseph's with an opponents' batting average of .110. The Huskies also lost a midweek game against Seattle and beat Cal State Northridge 18-6.
Top returnees are outfielder Joe Meggs (.317, 17 RBI in 2011), third baseman Jacob Lamb (.311, 26 RBI in 2011) and catcher B.K. Santy (.288, 18 RBI in 2011). Washington's pitching staff is paced by Jeff Brigham (4-1, 4.73 ERA in 2011), Aaron West (1-8, 5.18 ERA in 2011) and Austin Voth (2-5, 5.19 ERA in 2011), all right-handers. Top hitters so far in 2012 are designated hitter Branden Berry (.366, 6 RBI), center fielder Jayce Ray (.333, 5 RBI) and Meggs (.324, 5 RBI). Washington is hitting .302 this season, has compiled a 3.78 staff ERA and has committed just six errors in 12 games for a .986 fielding percentage.
Washington has produced such Major Leaguers as pitcher Tim Lincecum (Giants), catcher Sammy White (Red Sox) and third baseman Mike Blowers (five teams). The Huskies last won a Pac-12 title in 1998 and last qualified for an NCAA Regional in 2004.
Cal Poly has an 11-5 advantage in the all-time series against Washington dating back to 1969. The two teams played three-game series from 2005-08, Cal Poly winning two of three in series at Seattle in 2006 and 2008 and sweeping the Huskies in 2007 at Baggett Stadium. Washington won two of three in 2005 at Baggett Stadium and the Mustangs won two of three in 1995 at home.
A year ago Cal Poly posted its sixth winning season in the last eight years, and a third-place finish in the highly competitive Big West Conference at 15-9. The Mustangs have finished in the upper half of the league standings eight times in the last 10 years. Cal Poly was 7-4 against top-25 teams in 2011 and finished 19-7 at home.
The Mustangs, who won just eight games away from Baggett Stadium in 2011, posted a 6-3 mark on the nine-game road trip which ended Tuesday at Santa Clara.
Following the series against Washington, Cal Poly will take a break for Winter Quarter finals, then resume play with a three-game series versus Minnesota on Saturday through Monday, March 17-19, in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.