SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (20-4), which reached the 20-win plateau Monday, the earliest for a Mustang squad since the implementation of the uniform start date in 2008, continues an 18-game home stand and opens Big West Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against UC Davis (12-9) in Baggett Stadium (cap.: 1,734).
Games on Friday and Saturday will start at 6 p.m. followed by a 1 p.m. first pitch Sunday. All three games will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Tom Barket providing the play-by-play. Links for live stats as well as audio and video streams are available at www.GoPoly.com.
Ranked No. 5 by Perfect Game and Baseball America and No. 9 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper this week, Cal Poly won three of four games against Cal last weekend in Baggett Stadium, lifting the Mustangs' record against Pac-12 opponents to 6-3. Cal Poly has won six series of three games or more this season, including three sweeps, and split two games in a rain-shortened series at USC. The Mustangs also have won their three midweek games so far, including two shutouts against Santa Clara.
Twenty-four games into the season, the Mustangs are hitting .298 and have outscored the opposition 155-82 while the pitching staff has compiled a 3.24 ERA with 225 strikeouts and 88 walks in 211 innings. Cal Poly is No. 1 in the NCAA in strikeouts per nine innings, No. 7 in winning percentage and No. 15 in fielding percentage.
Cal Poly won 18 consecutive home games, including the final seven of the 2013 season, before Cal snapped the streak March 22. The Mustangs have won 83 of their last 107 home games for a winning percentage of 77.6 percent. At 17-3 a week ago, Cal Poly posted the program's second-best 20-game start in its 110-year history. The 1997 Mustangs opened the year 18-2.
UC Davis lost seven of its first 11 games before turning things around. The Aggies have won eight of their last 10 contests, winning three of four games against New Mexico State at home last weekend and earning a 10-inning 4-3 victory over Nevada on Tuesday at Dobbins Baseball Complex.
Cal Poly, 40-19 a year ago for its first 40-win season in Division I and third overall, returned 19 letter winners, including eight position starters and seven pitchers, off its 2013 squad which swept five series and won 10 of 15 weekend series. Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs went 1-2 in the Los Angeles Regional hosted by UCLA, falling to the Bruins 6-4 on the second day. UCLA went on to capture its first national title.
Cal Poly won its first seven games of the 2013 season and sprinted to a 13-1 start. Never losing more than three games in a row, Cal Poly steadily climbed 17 games over the .500 mark during the next seven weeks of play. A late-season surge with 11 wins in their last 14 games enabled the Mustangs to post their third 40-win season in school history, falling one victory shy of the record of 41 wins in both 1977 and 1992. The Mustangs finished second in the Big West for the second straight year.
Topping Cal Poly's list of returnees are senior third baseman Jimmy Allen (.299, 39 RBI) and junior relief pitcher Reed Reilly (2.29 ERA, 14 saves), both of whom were drafted last June but chose to return to Cal Poly for another season.
Also returning were outfielders Nick Torres (.333, seven home runs, 49 RBI) and Jordan Ellis (.323, 18 RBI), infielders Tim Wise, Peter Van Gansen and John Schuknecht, catcher Chris Hoo and designated hitter Brian Mundell (.265, 11 home runs, 42 RBI).
Joining Reilly on the pitching staff were starters Matt Imhof (7-3, 2.74 ERA), Casey Bloomquist (6-2, 5.02 ERA) and Bryan Granger (5-4, 5.37 ERA) and relievers Taylor Chris (1-0, 2.55 ERA) and Danny Zandona (2-1, 4.50 ERA), among others.
UC Davis, 19-37 a year ago and 5-22 for last place in the Big West Conference, returned 24 letter winners, including six position starters and 10 pitchers. Top returnees include infielders Nick Lynch (.359, 28 RBI in 2013), Tino Lipson (.339, 10 steals) and Steven Patterson (.324, 33 RBI). Top returning pitchers are Harry Stanwyck (4-8, 4.79 ERA in 2013), Evan Wolf (3-5, 4.38 ERA) and Spencer Koopmans (1-9, 5.54 ERA), all righties.
Coached by Matt Vaughn (third season, 58-76, UC Davis '92), UC Davis sports a .291 team batting average, led by third baseman Adam Young (.472) and center fielder Kevin Barker (.383). The Aggies have compiled a 4.07 staff ERA and have committed 23 errors in 21 games for a .971 fielding percentage.
Stanwyck (1-3, 4.13 ERA) will start Friday's game, followed by righty Max Cordy (1-0, 4.87 ERA) on Saturday and Wolf (2-1, 4.76 ERA) on Sunday. Aggie closer Zach Stone, another righty, has five saves, a 1-1 record and 1.35 ERA.
UC Davis has appeared in one NCAA Division I regional (2008) and seven in Division II, making two appearances in the Division II College World Series (1995, 2003). The Aggies won the California Collegiate Athletic Association regular-season title in 2004 and nine Northern California Athletic Conference championships.
Vaughn was an assistant at UC Davis for 19 seasons before he was elevated to head coach following the 2011 season. Vaughn pitched for the Aggies from 1989-92, starting 26 games and winning nine. He earned honorable mention All-Northern California Athletic Conference honors as a senior.
Cal Poly and UC Davis have met only 33 times on the baseball field since the series began in 1951. Twenty-seven of those meetings are over the last nine seasons after the Aggies announced their intention to move to Division I, a transfer that was completed in time for the 2008 season. The Mustangs hold a 26-7 advantage in the series after sweeping the Aggies a year ago in San Luis Obispo, including a 13-inning 6-5 triumph in the finale. Cal Poly had won seven consecutive series against UC Davis before the Aggies took two of three games in 2012 in Davis. Cal Poly is 21-6 against UC Davis since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season. Larry Lee is 21-6 against UC Davis while Matt Vaughn is 2-4 against Cal Poly.
Cal Poly's top hitters after 24 games are junior right fielder Nick Torres (pictured above) (.372, four home runs, 27 RBI, eight-game hitting streak), sophomore second baseman Mark Mathias (.347, 19 RBI, 14-game hitting streak) senior third baseman Jimmy Allen (.330, 10 doubles, 20 RBI) and junior center fielder Jordan Ellis (.318, 10 RBI). Senior first baseman/outfielder Tim Wise (.298, five doubles, 10 RBI) and sophomore designated hitter Brian Mundell (.289, three home runs, 22 RBI) are near the .300 mark.
Cal Poly's pitching rotation was adjusted after playing six games in six days two weeks ago in Baggett Stadium. Junior southpaw Matt Imhof (5-1, 1.27 ERA) will start as usual Friday night, with freshman right-hander Justin Calomeni (5-1, 2.76 ERA) slated to start Saturday. Sophomore right-hander Casey Bloomquist (5-0, 1.82 ERA) starts Sunday.
A year ago, Cal Poly surpassed the 30-win mark for the ninth time in the last 14 years and clinched its 11th winning season since 2000 by sweeping UC Riverside in early May. The Mustangs moved 21 games above the .500 mark for the first time in their 19-year Division I history by sweeping Cal State Northridge on May 17-19. Cal Poly was 13-1 on the year after sweeping a doubleheader at Kansas State by 13-10 and 6-2 scores in early March.
Lee, in his 12th season with the Mustangs, has guided Cal Poly to five 3-0 starts with season-opening series sweeps over San Diego in 2005, Fresno State in 2006, Oklahoma State in 2012, San Francisco last year and Kansas State this season. The Mustangs have finished in the upper half of the conference standings 10 times in the last 12 years.
Lee (369-276-2) earned his 300th win on May 5, 2012, in a 12-7 decision at UC Davis. Lee 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 continues the long home stand next weekend, hosting CSU Bakersfield on Tuesday at 6 p.m. before continuing Big West Conference play by hosting Central Coast and Blue-Green rival UC Santa Barbara for three games Friday through Sunday (April 5-7).