IRVINE, Calif. – Sophomore southpaw Matt Imhof earned his fifth win and freshman designated hitter Brian Mundell sparked No. 22 Cal Poly offensively with a two-run double as the Mustangs evened their Big West Conference baseball series against No. 23 UC Irvine at a game apiece with a 4-3 victory Saturday afternoon in Anteater Ballpark.
Imhof (pictured at right) retired the first 11 batters he faced and pitched seven full innings, striking out six, before handing off the ball to sophomore closer Reed Reilly, who earned his 14th save, tying the school record, with two scoreless innings in relief.
With the win, Cal Poly improved to 33-15 for the season and climbed back into a third-place tie with UC Irvine, both with 12-8 conference records. UC Santa Barbara, which beat Cal State Northridge 6-2 Saturday, also is 12-8. The Anteaters are 30-15 overall.
Cal Poly jumped on UC Irvine starter Matt Whitehouse (4-6) in the first inning as senior second baseman Denver Chavez opened the game with a double to the gap in left-center field. Jordan Ellis reached base on an error during a sacrifice bunt attempt and Mundell's shot down the left-field line gave the Mustangs a quick 2-0 lead.
It remained that way until the sixth when Cal Poly scored two more runs. Singles by sophomore center fielder Jordan Ellis and Mundell plus a throwing error in the outfield allowed the first run to score and junior third baseman Jimmy Allen singled to knock in another run for a 4-0 Mustang advantage.
UC Irvine closed the gap to 4-3 with three runs in the bottom of the sixth. With two outs, a single and a walk preceded an RBI double by Taylor Sparks and Ronnie Shaeffer singled to drive in two more runs.
Imhof, who had a one-hit shutout through five innings, pitched the seventh inning before giving way to Reilly in the eighth. UC Irvine loaded the bases with two outs in the frame but Reilly got Scott Gottschling to pop up to Chavez at second base for the final out of the inning.
Reilly also retired the side in order in the ninth on three infield grounders to end the game. His 14 saves ties the school record set by Mike Bille in 2005.
Imhof, who also has five no-decisions this season -– Cal Poly is 4-1 in those games -– recorded 10 fly ball outs, five grounders and six strikeouts, throwing 102 pitches.
Whitehouse worked six innings in absorbing the loss, allowing four runs (two earned) with no walks and five strikeouts. Eleven of the outs he recorded were fly balls along with just one groundout.
UC Irvine, the Big West leader in fielding percentage at .981, committed three errors in a game for just the second time this season.
Cal Poly's seven hits included two by Mundell and the double by Chavez. UC Irvine, which accumulated 14 hits in Friday's 7-1 victory, was limited to just five hits Saturday, two by Dominique Taylor. Taylor Sparks added a double.
Cal Poly is now 12-5 in one-run games, 26-5 when the Mustangs score first, 26-3 when outhitting its opponents and 25-0 when ahead after six innings.
Final game of the series will be played Sunday at 1 o'clock with sophomore right-hander Bryan Granger (5-3, 4.88 ERA) on the mound for Cal Poly, facing UC Irvine junior right-hander Andrew Morales (9-0, 1.96 ERA).