SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (20-11, 4-2 Big West), which has won five of seven series, including three sweeps, and is ranked No. 27 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper this week, continues a stretch of eight of nine games on the road this weekend with a three-game Big West Conference series against Cal State Northridge (14-18, 2-4 Big West) at Matador Field (cap.: 1,000).
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs, 8-3 in an 11-game homestand that ended last Saturday, will play the Matadors on Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1 o'clock. All three games of the series 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 games will be available as well.
Cal Poly 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 3-2 so far in April following Tuesday's 6-5 non-conference setback at UC Santa Barbara.
Cal State Northridge dropped two of three games to both Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara on the road over the last two weeks. The Matadors won the finale of each series by 5-1 and 4-2 decisions respectively. Freshman southpaw Jerry Keel was the winning pitcher in both games and sports a 3-1 record and 1.68 ERA this season. Cal State Northridge rallied for an unearned run in the ninth inning to edge CSU Bakersfield 4-3 Tuesday.
Last weekend 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 April 5, 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 31 games is senior shortstop Mike Miller with a .362 average. He had a 14-game hitting streak earlier this season and leads the club with 10 doubles and 35 runs scored. Sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen sports a .336 average with seven doubles and 17 RBI while sophomore left fielder David Armendariz is hitting .313 after going 4-for-4 in Saturday's win over UC Irvine. Junior center fielder Mitch Haniger has a .302 average and leads the club and the Big West with six home runs and 33 RBI while redshirt freshman right fielder Nick Torres is hitting .291 with 10 doubles and 20 RBI.
Cal Poly's pitching rotation for the weekend series includes junior right-hander Joey Wagman (5-2, 2.05 ERA) on Friday, senior southpaw Kyle Anderson (5-1, 2.18 ERA) (pictured above) on Saturday and junior right-hander Kyle Brueggemann (4-2, 4.01 ERA) on Sunday.
Cal State Northridge, coached by Matt Curtis (second season, 37-51, Fresno State '99), returned 15 lettermen, including 11 position starters and eight pitchers, off a team which went 23-33 a year ago and finished ninth in the Big West Conference at 6-18.
The Matadors, who jumped to a 5-2 start in the first two weeks of the season but have won just eight of their last 23 games, have won series against Sacramento State (2-1), Northwestern (3-0) and Indiana (2-1) while falling to Portland (1-2), Saint Mary's (1-2), Cal State Fullerton (1-2) and UC Santa Barbara (1-2).
Top hitters so far in 2012 for the Matadors are center fielder Nate Ring (.297, 10 RBI), left fielder Adam Barry (.286, 12 RBI) and second baseman Ryan Raslowsky (.284). Cal State Northridge is hitting .254 this season, has compiled a 5.26 staff ERA and has committed 51 errors in 32 games for a .959 fielding percentage.
The Matadors won the Big West in 2002 and the Western Athletic Conference in 1996, both under Mike Batesole, now head coach at Fresno State. Cal State Northridge captured NCAA Division II national titles in 1970 and 1984 under Bob Hiegert.
Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge have met 208 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1959. The Matadors hold a 115-93 advantage, though Cal Poly swept a three-game series against the Matadors a year ago at Baggett Stadium. Cal Poly is 28-24 against Cal State Northridge 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 7-6 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, 15-2 when outhitting its foes and 13-2 when making fewer errors than the opposition this season.
Next week, Cal Poly hosts Fresno State for a single non-conference game Tuesday night at 6 in Baggett Stadium followed by a three-game Big West Conference series at No. 12/14 Cal State Fullerton.