SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (33-20, 13-8 Big West), which earned its fifth series sweep of the year and has won 11 of its last 14 games to move 13 games above the .500 mark, wraps up the 2012 regular season this weekend with a three-game Big West Conference series at UC Riverside (21-28 with games Tuesday at Loyola Marymount and Wednesday at USC, 9-12 Big West) in the Riverside Sports Complex (cap.: 2,500).
First pitches are set for 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. All three games of the series will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play. An audio stream as well as live stats will be available on www.gopoly.com.
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 jumped to much better 7-1 and 20-10 starts 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 finished April with an 8-8 mark after sweeping a three-game Big West series at home against Pacific.
Cal Poly opened May with a walk-off 10-inning 2-1 victory over Pepperdine two weeks ago. but the Mustangs dropped two of three Big West games at UC Davis before winning three of four games in a five-day span against CSU Bakersfield. Last weekend Cal Poly swept UC Santa Barbara by 5-1, 15-5 and 9-8 scores to complete its first 4-0 week of the season.
Larry Lee earned his 300th win as head coach of the Mustangs on May 5 in a 12-7 decision at UC Davis. Lee (306-252-2) surpassed Berdy Harr (297-249-6 from 1973-83) as Cal Poly's winningest head baseball coach during the Pacific series a week earlier. Steve McFarland was 290-257 in 10 seasons (1984-93) at the helm of the Mustangs while Ritch Price was 217-228-1 in Cal Poly's first eight years of play in Division I (1995-2002).
Cal Poly is third in the Big West at 13-8. Cal State Fullerton leads with a 15-6 mark, one game ahead of second-place Long Beach State (14-7). UC Irvine is fourth at 12-9. Cal Poly can clinch a one-third share of the Big West title only by sweeping UC Riverside this weekend while Long Beach State wins two of three games at home against Cal State Fullerton. If that were to occur, Long Beach State would earn the automatic bid to the NCAA regional by virtue of its 2-1 series advantage over both Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton.
UC Riverside bounced back from Friday's 3-2 loss at Cal State Fullerton with 6-3 and 1-0 victories over the weekend. The Highlanders have won seven of their last 11 games.
Cal Poly's top hitter through 53 games is senior shortstop Mike Miller, who had three doubles, two RBI and five runs scored against UC Santa Barbara to lift his average to .364. Miller, who has 16 doubles, four triples, three home runs, 33 RBI and 53 runs scored this season, is 34-for-77 (.442) in his last 17 games with 11 multiple-hit games, including seven games with three or more hits. He was 5-for-5 against Pacific on April 28.
Sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen sports a .346 average with 16 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 42 RBI and nine stolen bases. Allen has produced a trio of seven-game hitting streaks this season and drove in the tying and go-ahead runs with a bases-loaded two-run single in the eighth inning Sunday, capping Cal Poly's comeback from a 7-1 deficit. Allen is 5-for-7 with 12 RBI with the bases loaded this season.
Junior center fielder Mitch Haniger is hitting .342 and leads the Mustangs and the Big West with 12 home runs, 58 RBI, a .618 slugging percentage, 123 total bases and six sacrifice flies. He is fourth all-time at Cal Poly in career home runs (25), fifth in career doubles (46) and seventh in career RBI (131).
UC Riverside, coached by Doug Smith (eighth season, 231-200, UC Riverside '75), returned 16 lettermen, including four position starters and eight pitchers, off a team which went 29-23 a year ago and finished fifth in the Big West Conference at 11-13. The Highlanders have won series against Sacramento State, UC Davis, Pacific and Cal State Fullerton.
Top hitters for the Highlanders are first baseman Vince Gonzalez (.354, 11 doubles, 28 RBI), left fielder Clayton Prestridge (.294, eight doubles, 20 RBI, nine steals) and shortstop Eddie Young (.286, eight doubles, 21 RBI). UC Riverside's pitching staff is paced by right-handers Eddie Orozco (5-6, 2.46 ERA) and Trevor Frank (2-7, 3.87 ERA) along with southpaw Dylan Stuart (7-6, 3.77 ERA) who scattered six hits in a complete-game 1-0 win over Cal State Fullerton on Sunday night.
UC Riverside is hitting .262 this season, has compiled a 3.70 staff ERA and has committed 62 errors in 49 games for a .967 fielding percentage. The Highlanders are 12-12 at home, 4-21 when the opponent scores first and 4-20 when outhit by their foes.
Cal Poly and UC Riverside have met 180 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1970. The Mustangs hold a 99-81 advantage, winning two of three games against the Highlanders a year ago in Baggett Stadium, snapping a string of four straight UC Riverside series victories.
The Mustangs' pitching rotation for the weekend series is expected to be junior right-hander Joey Wagman (8-3, 2.42 ERA) on Friday night, senior southpaw Kyle Anderson (9-1, 3.63 ERA) on Saturday night and freshman right-hander Bryan Granger (0-1, 4.50 ERA) on Sunday afternoon.
Cal Poly was ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper after its 7-1 start and No. 27 five weeks ago after sweeping UC Irvine. The Mustangs are 16-1 on Saturday, 5-1 in shutouts, 31-1 when leading after eight innings, 25-5 when outhitting their foes and 20-5 when making fewer errors than the opposition this season. The Mustangs' 12-7 win at UC Davis on May 5 marked the first time Cal Poly won a game in 15 tries this season when trailing after six innings while the 9-8 victory over UCSB on May 20 was the first for the Mustangs in 18 games when trailing after seven frames. Cal Poly has won at least 30 games eight times in the last 13 seasons and has clinched its 10th winning season since 2000.
The 64-team bracket for the NCAA Division I regionals will be announced Monday at 9 a.m. on ESPNU. The 16 regional hosts and sites will be announced Sunday at 12:30 p.m.