SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – On Friday night, sophomore right fielder Nick Torres and senior catcher Elliot Stewart combined for four RBI. The pair did one better Saturday.
Stewart drove in three runs with a two-run home run and a groundout while Torres (pictured at right) singled to knock in two more as No. 27 Cal Poly clinched its Big West Conference baseball series against second-place Cal State Northridge with a 6-2 victory Saturday before 1,010 in Baggett Stadium.
Cal Poly, which won Friday's game 5-1, improved to 36-16 for the season and 14-9 in Big West contests, one game behind the Matadors (31-22, 15-8).
The Mustangs have won eight of their last 10 games and are in third place alone as UC Irvine (3-2 to Cal State Fullerton) and UC Santa Barbara (3-2 to Pacific) both lost Saturday and fell into a tie for fourth place with Long Beach State (5-4 over UC Riverside) at 13-10. The Mustangs enter Sunday's series finale with an RPI of 23, according to Warren Nolan.com.
Sophomore southpaw Matt Imhof (6-3) and junior right-hander Michael Holback combined to strike out 17 Matador batters. Two Cal State Northridge hitters struck out in every inning but the eighth.
Imhof earned the win by allowing just two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings with two walks and a career-high 12 strikeouts. Imhof twice struck out 11 batters in a game (Notre Dame, Hawai'i) earlier this season.
Holback notched his second save by working 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Imhof. He allowed two hits and no walks with five strikeouts.
Cal Poly pitchers have combined to strike out 31 Matador batters in the first two games of the series, enabling the Mustangs to move 20 games above the .500 mark for the first time this season and the fifth time since Cal Poly moved to Division I 19 years ago.
No Mustang team in Division I has been 21 games above .500 and Cal Poly has a chance to do that in Sunday's series finale at 1 o'clock. The Mustangs have won nine of 14 weekend series this season with four sweeps so far (San Francisco, Seattle, UC Davis, UC Riverside).
The loss went to Matador freshman right-hander Calvin Copping (5-5) as he gave up six runs and eight hits in four-plus innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
Senior second baseman Denver Chavez garnered his second four-hit game of the season -– he also had a five-hit game against UC Santa Barbara five weeks ago –- with four singles Saturday. He drove in one run and stole two bases, giving him 17 on the year.
Junior third baseman Jimmy Allen and freshman first baseman John Schuknecht each added two hits as Cal Poly outhit Cal State Northridge 12-8.
Stewart's main contribution besides his 16 putouts as the catcher was a two-run home run which gave Cal Poly a 4-1 advantage in the fourth inning. Stewart has three of Cal Poly's last five home runs and seven for the season, a career high.
Second baseman Michael Livingston, first baseman Joshua Goossen-Brown and catcher Alexis Mercado each had two hits for the Matadors. Shortstop Kyle Attl (fifth inning) and Goossen-Brown (fourth inning) both hit a solo home run to account for Cal State Northridge's offense.
Torres singled to center field to give Cal Poly a 2-0 lead in the third inning. He leads the Mustangs with 43 RBI this season.
After the Matadors tallied a run on Goossen-Brown's homer in the fourth, Cal Poly answered with three in the bottom of the frame. Stewart's two-run home run made it 4-1 and Chavez singled up the middle for an RBI and a 5-1 Mustang lead. Cal State Northridge pitchers also issued four wild pitches in the inning.
Cal State Northridge cut the deficit to 5-2 with Attl's home run in the top of the fifth and the Mustangs responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the fifth as Stewart grounded out to shortstop with runners at second and third, pushing across the final run of the game.
Mustang freshman right-hander Casey Bloomquist (5-1, 4.58 ERA) will make his first weekend start Sunday, facing Cal State Northridge junior southpaw John Salas (4-5, 3.03 ERA).
Four Mustang seniors -– Stewart, Chavez and pitchers Joey Wagman and Kyle Brueggemann -- and one junior –- outfielder Matt Russell -- will be honored in a pregame Senior Day ceremony.