SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (20-10, 4-2 Big West), off to its best start in three years following five series wins and a 2-2 mark in the Aztec Invitational, plays eight of its next nine games on the road, starting with a non-conference matchup Tuesday afternoon against Big West Conference rival UC Santa Barbara (16-14, 4-2 Big West) in Caesar Uyesaka Stadium (cap.: 1,000).
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs, 8-3 in an 11-game homestand that ended Saturday, will play the Gauchos at 2 p.m. (a change due to weather concerns). The game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 1280 as well as on the Internet at GoPoly.com with Tom Barket handling play-by-play duties. Live stats for the game will be available as well.
Cal Poly, ranked No. 27 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper this week, returned 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 with series sweeps against Oklahoma State (3-0), Loyola Marymount (4-0) and UC Irvine (3-0) as well as series wins over Washington (2-1) and San Diego State (3-1). The Mustangs, 7-1 in February, posted a 10-8 record in March, including series losses to Minnesota and Long Beach State, and are 3-1 so far in April.
UC Santa Barbara opened Big West play at home by winning two of three games against both UC Riverside and Cal State Northridge. Against the Matadors last weekend, the Gauchos won the first two games of the series 11-1 and 8-4 before dropping the finale 4-2.
Cal Poly swept UC Irvine for the first time in series history by scores of 6-0, 3-2 and 8-1. The Anteaters were swept in a conference series for the first time since 2006 -- a stretch of 48 consecutive series -- and as a result of the series-opening loss Thursday, suffered their first loss in a conference series opener since 2008, snapping a string of 25 conference series-opening wins.
Cal Poly's top hitter through 30 games is senior shortstop Mike Miller with a .365 average. He had a 14-game hitting streak earlier this season and leads the club with 10 doubles and 34 runs scored. Sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen sports a .333 average with seven doubles and 15 RBI while sophomore left fielder David Armendariz is hitting .309 after going 4-for-4 in Saturday's 8-1 win over UC Irvine. Junior center fielder Mitch Haniger has a .297 average and leads the club and the Big West with six home runs and 33 RBI while redshirt freshman right fielder Nick Torres has a .281 mark.
The Mustang pitching staff, led by starters Joey Wagman (5-2, 2.05 ERA), Kyle Anderson (5-1, 2.18 ERA) and Kyle Brueggemann (4-2, 4.01 ERA), has compiled a 3.32 ERA, third in the Big West. In addition, sophomore right-hander Chase Johnson (pictured above) is second in the conference with his six saves.
Mustang freshman right-hander Bryan Granger (0-0, 6.75) will start against UC Santa Barbara junior right-hander Jared Wilson (0-0, 2.01 ERA). It will be Granger's second start of the year and the first for Wilson.
UC Santa Barbara, coached by Andrew Checketts (first season, 16-14, Oregon State '98), returned 12 lettermen, including five position starters and five pitchers, off a team which went 26-26 a year ago and finished tied for sixth in the Big West Conference at 10-14. The Gauchos have won series against San Jose State (3-0), Rhode Island (3-0), UC Riverside (2-1) and Cal State Northridge (2-1) while falling to Oregon State (1-3), Loyola Marymount (1-2), Nevada (1-2) and San Francisco (1-2).
Top hitters so far in 2012 are second baseman Brandon Trinkwon (.396, 21 RBI), first baseman Greg Mahle (.392, 22 RBI), center fielder Brett Vertigan (.386, 19 RBI) and left fielder Lance Roenicke (.319, 19 RBI).
UCSB's pitching staff is paced by right-handers Austin Pettibone (5-2, 5.09 ERA) and Matthew Vedo (3-4, 4.95 ERA in 2011) and southpaws Andrew Vasquez (5-2, 1.10 ERA) and Zak Eddington (1-2, 2.89 ERA).
UC Santa Barbara is hitting .290 this season, has compiled a 3.85 staff ERA and has committed 40 errors in 30 games for a .966 fielding percentage.
UCSB claimed Big West titles in 1972 and 1986 and has qualified for the NCAA Division I regionals seven times, the last in 2001, and compiling a 6-18 win-loss record in Division I postseason competition.
Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara have met 204 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1942. The Gauchos hold a 112-92 advantage, winning two of three games against the Mustangs a year ago at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Cal Poly is 38-37 against UCSB since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season.
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 March 6 at Santa Clara and are 7-5 on the road this year. Cal Poly was 5-3 against West Coast Conference schools in a 10-game stretch beginning and ending with losses to Santa Clara on Feb. 21 and March 6.
Cal Poly is 10-0 on Saturday, 5-1 in shutouts, 19-0 when leading after eight innings, 15-1 when outhitting the opposition and 13-2 when making fewer errors than its foes this season.
Following the game at UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly travels to Cal State Northridge for a three-game Big West Conference series Friday through Sunday.