SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- No. 27 Cal Poly (34-16, 12-9 Big West), seeking its second NCAA Division I regional playoff berth, continues building its postseason resumé -- currently ranked No. 27 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and an RPI of No. 29 -- by hosting Cal State Northridge (31-20, 15-6 Big West) for its final three home games of the 2013 season Friday through Sunday in Baggett Stadium (1,734).
First pitch is set for 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. All three games of the series will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Tom Barket calling the play-by-play. The games also will be available via audio and video streams as well as live stats at GoPoly.com.
Cal Poly, 36-20 a year ago and winner of 14 of its final 17 games, returned 23 letter winners, including seven position starters and 11 pitchers (four starters), off its 2012 squad which swept six series, won nine of 14 weekend series, finished one game behind champion Cal State Fullerton in the Big West and ended atop the conference in most key offensive categories, including average, runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBI.
Under 11th-year head coach Larry Lee, the Mustangs won their first seven games of the 2013 season, then after their first loss, a 2-1 decision at Washington (snapping a 14-game winning streak over two seasons), put together a six-game winning streak capped by a sweep of a doubleheader against Kansas State on March 8 in Manhattan, Kansas.
Cal Poly swept UC Davis to open Big West play in late March, but won just eight of its next 16 games before sweeping UC Riverside two weeks ago. Last week, the Mustangs extended their winning streak to four games with a 5-2 victory at San Jose State before dropping two of three games at UC Irvine over the weekend and falling into a tie for fourth place in the Big West with UC Santa Barbara.
Cal State Northridge is second in the Big West, three games ahead of Cal Poly with six games to play. The Matadors lost two of three games at home against UC Santa Barbara last weekend and did not have a midweek game this week while the Mustangs defeated CSU Bakersfield 10-4 on Tuesday in Baggett Stadium as Elliot Stewart hit a tie-breaking two-run home run and freshman right-hander Casey Bloomquist earned his fifth win with six solid innings on the mound.
Cal Poly, which reached the 20-win mark before the end of March for the first time since the NCAA's uniform start date was implemented in 2008, surpassed the 30-win mark and clinched its 11th winning season since 2000 with the UC Riverside sweep. The Mustangs are 18 games above the .500 mark, have posted a 12-5 mark in one-run games and are 20-6 at home this season.
Cal Poly has hit over the .300 mark in five of its 13 weekend series, including a .358 mark in the non-conference series against UC Santa Barbara eight weeks ago and .342 against UC Davis. The Mustangs, however, hit a season-low .172 in the UC Irvine series last weekend as their team batting average slipped to .275.
Senior second baseman Denver Chavez leads the Mustangs and is among the top five in the Big West with his .353 batting average. He also is among the conference leaders in hits (72), runs scored (46), on-base percentage (.419), doubles (13), steals (14) and total bases (89). Sophomore center fielder Jordan Ellis is hitting .333 and leads the team and Big West in triples with five.
Sophomore right fielder Nick Torres sports a .325 mark with six home runs and leads the team in RBI with 39 and the Big West with seven sacrifice flies while freshman designated hitter Brian Mundell has 37 RBI and nine home runs on the year, tying Matt Jensen among freshman home run hitters in Cal Poly's 19-year Division I history. Junior left fielder David Armendariz is hitting .278 with 10 steals, junior third baseman Jimmy Allen sports a .271 average with 33 RBI and freshman shortstop Peter Van Gansen has a .265 average.
Cal Poly's three starting outfielders -- Torres (18 games, fourth-longest in Cal Poly's Division I history), Ellis (13) and Armendariz (10) -- all had long hitting streaks snapped in recent weeks.
The Mustang starting rotation of senior right-hander Joey Wagman (10-3, 3.12 ERA), sophomore southpaw Matt Imhof (5-3, 2.46 ERA) and sophomore righty Bryan Granger (5-4, 5.37 ERA) has allowed just 88 earned runs in 50 games while relievers Reed Reilly, Michael Holback, Chase Johnson and Taylor Chris have combined for 16 saves. With his 14 saves, Reilly has tied the all-time single-season school record previously set by Mike Bille in 2005.
Lee earned his 300th win last May 5 in a 12-7 decision at UC Davis. Lee (343-269-2) 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).
Lee has guided Cal Poly to a quartet of 3-0 starts with season-opening series sweeps over San Diego in 2005, Fresno State in 2006, Oklahoma State in 2012 and San Francisco this year. The Mustangs won their first seven games for the first time since 1981. The 1954 and 1974 Mustangs started 8-0 and the school record start to a season was 10-0 by the 1951 team coached by Robert Mott.
Cal State Northridge, coached by Matt Curtis (third season, 77-83, Fresno State '99), returned 19 lettermen, including seven position starters and 13 pitchers, off a team which went 23-30 a year ago and finished tied for sixth in the Big West Conference at 10-14. The Matadors' 31 wins so far in 2013 are the most at the school since the 2002 team won 41 games, placed first in the Big West and earned an NCAA regional playoff berth.
After a 6-12 start, Cal State Northridge has won 25 of its last 33 games, including series wins over Utah Valley, UC Riverside, Hawai'i, Pacific and UC Davis. The Matadors host Cal State Fullerton next weekend to close out the regular season.
Top hitters for the Matadors are left fielder Cal Vogelsang (.306, 16 RBI), designated hitter Ryan Raslowsky (.299) and shortstop Kyle Attl (.293, 10 doubles, 27 RBI). The Cal State Northridge pitching staff is paced by right-hander Calvin Copping (5-4, 3.21 ERA) and southpaws Jerry Keel (7-1, 1.85 ERA) and John Salas (4-5, 3.03 ERA). The closer is righty Joshua Goossen-Brown (2-3, 3.63 ERA, nine saves).
The Matadors are hitting .263 as a team with 80 doubles, six triples and 19 home runs, while the pitching staff has compiled a 3.71 earned run average. The Matadors have committed 50 errors in 51 games for a .974 fielding percentage.
Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge have met 211 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 117-94 advantage, winning two of three games a year ago at Matador Field. Cal Poly swept three-game series against the Matadors in 2009 and 2011 at Baggett Stadium. Cal Poly is 29-26 against Cal State Northridge since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season.
The Matadors have not won a series in San Luis Obispo since 1996.
Cal Poly, which dropped five positions to No. 27 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll this week, fell out of the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and USA Today Coaches polls. Baseball America and Perfect Game dropped the Mustangs from their polls three weeks ago. Last year the Mustangs were ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper after their 7-1 start and No. 27 after sweeping UC Irvine in early April.
Cal Poly has won at least 30 games nine times in the last 14 seasons, has posted its 11th winning season since 2000 and has finished in the upper half of the conference standings nine times in the last 11 years.
Cal Poly wraps up the 2013 regular season next week with a three-game Big West series Thursday through Saturday at Pacific.