SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Cal Poly celebrated Mother's Day and Senior Day with a 10-3 victory over No. 16 UC Irvine on Sunday, clinching the Big West Conference baseball series at Baggett Stadium, two games to one.
Sophomore right-hander Casey Bloomquist earned his 11th win of the season while junior right fielder Nick Torres and senior catcher Chris Hoo combined for six hits and five RBI as the fifth-ranked Mustangs improved to 41-10 on the year, tying the all-time school record for victories in a season set by the 1977 and 1992 squads.
Cal Poly is 16-5 in Big West games, a half-game behind UC Irvine (34-16, 15-3). The Mustangs have three conference games remaining next weekend at Cal State Northridge while the Anteaters have six conference games left – three at home against Cal State Fullerton next weekend and three more at Long Beach State in two weeks.
For the fourth time this season, Cal Poly bounced back to win a series after losing the opener. The others were against UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside.
"Our team showed resiliency again, coming back to win the series after losing the opener," said 12th-year Mustang head coach Larry Lee. "Winning this series puts us in a good position with one Big West series to go while UC Irvine has two series against two tough teams in Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State. The series win gives us the tiebreaker, too."
Cal Poly won three of four games this week and has claimed five of its last six games since suffering through a four-game losing streak during which the Mustangs lost back-to-back games for the only time this season.
"More importantly, the series win keeps us going in the right direction to host a regional," Lee said. "That means everything to us because we play so well at home. Hosting a regional gives us the best chance of advancing."
Cal Poly, 27-3 at home this year, scored twice in each of the first five innings to build a 10-0 lead and never looked back. The Mustangs produced double-digit runs and hits in a game for just the third time in 33 contests, putting together a 16-hit offensive attack Sunday.
Bloomquist (11-1) was the main beneficiary of all the offense, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings for the win. He walked two and struck out two. Taylor Chris tossed two scoreless innings and Reed Reilly closed it out in the ninth with four strikeouts, giving up a run on a wild pitch when Taylor Sparks struck out and reached first with two outs and the bases loaded.
The loss went to senior right-hander Evan Brock (8-4), who surrendered six runs (four earned) and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Torres went 3-for-5 with two singles, one scoring a run in the second inning, and his fifth home run of the year, a two-run shot to left-center field in the fifth inning. It was Torres' first home run in two months, a span of 35 games.
Hoo (pictured above) also was 3-for-5 and knocked in two runs. He tripled to drive in a run in the third inning and singled to score another run in the fourth.
Contributing two hits each for the Mustangs were junior left fielder Zack Zehner, senior third baseman Jimmy Allen, sophomore shortstop Peter Van Gansen and sophomore first baseman John Schuknecht.
Zehner tripled to lead off the third inning and singled to knock in two runs in the first frame. Allen doubled to score a run in the fourth while Van Gansen singled twice and pushed a run across in the third inning with a safety squeeze bunt.
UC Irvine's 12-hit attack was led by Adam Alcantara and Mikey Duarte, both non-starters, with two hits each. First baseman Connor Spencer and third baseman Taylor Sparks, two of the top hitters in the Big West, both singled Sunday but were a combined 2-for-21 in the series.
The Anteaters went 18 innings without scoring a run before avoiding their second straight shutout with two runs in the sixth inning and another in the ninth.
Cal Poly has won 12 of 13 series of three games or more this season. UC Irvine won Friday's opener 3-2 and the Mustangs claimed Saturday's game 1-0 on a combined two-hitter by Justin Calomeni, Chris and Reilly.
"Friday night, we saw four of the best pitchers in the country and it came down to who could cash in on their opportunities," said Lee. "UC Irvine did on Friday. Saturday was similar. We created one opportunity and cashed in at the right moment. We couldn't have scripted the pitching better in that game with Calomeni for six innings and Chris and Reilly finishing it off.
"Sunday, the two-out RBIs and Casey being so steady on the mound were the difference," Lee added. "He has always been our No. 2 pitcher and we choose to have him throw on Sundays."
Eight of Cal Poly's 10 runs Sunday were posted with two outs.
Cal Poly hit .294 in the series, with Torres collecting six hits and Hoo and Allen four each. The Mustang pitching staff compiled a 1.67 ERA with 29 strikeouts and just six walks in 27 innings.
Sunday's crowd of 2,466 lifted the series total to 7,790, the third largest figure in Baggett Stadium's 14-year history.
Cal Poly's four seniors – Allen, Hoo, his brother, infielder Michael Hoo, and infielder/outfielder Tim Wise – were honored in a ceremony prior to the Mustangs' final home game of the regular season.
Cal Poly's final week of the regular season begins Tuesday at Saint Mary's (15-36), followed by three Big West games Friday through Sunday at Cal State Northridge (18-32, 6-12 Big West).
Photo by Ray Ambler | Video by Aaron Bevan