SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Senior shortstop Mike Miller and sophomore designated hitter Tim Wise (pictured at right) drove in the go-ahead runs with RBI singles in the sixth inning and senior southpaw Kyle Anderson scattered four hits over six frames as Cal Poly defeated UC Irvine 3-2 in a Big West Conference baseball game Friday night in Baggett Stadium.
Miller snapped a 1-1 tie with a run-scoring single up the middle and Wise followed with a single to left-center field for what proved to be a much-needed insurance run for the Mustangs.
UC Irvine, which stranded nine runners on the basepaths, closed the gap to a run in the ninth but left the potential game-tying run at third base as second baseman Tommy Reyes grounded out to second base, ending the game.
Cal Poly clinched the three-game series with the victory – the Mustangs won the opener 6-0 Thursday night – and improved to 19-10 for the season, nine games above the .500 mark for the first time this year. UC Irvine fell to 17-11.
Both teams are 3-2 in Big West games, tied for third place and one game behind co-leaders Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara, both 4-1. Cal State Fullerton, which scored three times in the eighth inning to beat UC Davis 5-4 Thursday night, tallied three in the ninth Friday night for another 5-4 triumph. UC Santa Barbara clinched its series against Cal State Northridge with an 8-4 win Friday.
Cal Poly has won a series against UC Irvine for the first time in five years.
The Mustangs and Anteaters both scored a run in the third inning. First baseman Jordan Fox hit a high-hop single over the head of Cal Poly redshirt freshman first baseman Tommy Pluschkell, tallying the UC Irvine run, and sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen singled up the middle to cash in the Cal Poly marker in the bottom of the frame.
The Mustangs put together a two-out rally in the sixth inning for two runs and a 3-1 advantage. Pluschkell and junior third baseman Evan Busby, the eighth and ninth batters in the order for Cal Poly, had key plate appearances in the uprising.
With two outs and the bases empty, Pluschkell was hit by a pitch on a 1-2 count. Busby, who entered the game with a .164 batting average and was in a 2-for-36 slump, drew a walk. Miller knocked in Pluschkell with his single up the middle and Busby came home on Wise's single to left-center field.
UC Irvine, which stranded two runners on base three times Thursday night, couldn't produce the key hit again Friday night, leaving a total of nine runners on the basepaths. The Anteaters left the bases loaded in the seventh frame and had two runners on base in both the third and ninth stanzas, scoring just once in each inning.
Anderson (5-1) allowed one run and four hits in six innings for the win, walking two and striking out four. He threw 90 pitches and his ERA dropped to 2.18.
Redshirt freshman Reed Reilly worked out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the seventh and finished with two scoreless, hitless frames, striking out two. Sophomore closer Chase Johnson earned his sixth save despite walking the first two Anteater batters he faced in the ninth.
Mitch Merten (1-1), who relieved UC Irvine starter Crosby Slaught in the fifth inning, suffered the loss, surrendering both runs in the sixth. Slaught allowed a run and three hits in four-plus innings, walking four and striking out two.
Shortstop D.J. Crumlich's sacrifice fly in the ninth trimmed Cal Poly's lead to 3-2, but Johnson retired Reyes to close out the contest.
The two teams combined for just 10 hits.
Cal Poly's six hits were singles by six different players. UC Irvine's four hits included a pair of doubles by catcher Jerry McClanahan, a .194 hitter entering the game, and one more by designated hitter Connor Spencer. Third baseman Taylor Sparks, who hit a walk-off two-run home run against Pacific last weekend, notched three sacrifice bunts Friday.
Final game of the series is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. Cal Poly will send junior right-hander Kyle Brueggemann (3-2, 4.58 ERA) to the mound against UC Irvine sophomore right-hander Phillip Ferragamo (3-2, 2.87 ERA).