SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Senior outfielder Zack Zehner's home run leading off the 12th inning lifted Cal Poly to a 4-3 walk-off victory over Long Beach State in the second game of a Big West Conference baseball series Saturday night before 1,291 in Baggett Stadium.
Zehner (pictured at right) hit the first pitch from Long Beach State closer Ty Provencher over the left-field wall for his sixth home run of the season as Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs earned their first walk-off win of the year and improved to 19-20 overall and 7-4 in the Big West. Cal Poly has won three straight and nine of its last 11 contests after falling eight games below the .500 mark on April 4.
Long Beach State fell to 21-17 and 7-7. Cal Poly clinched the series with the victory, its first series win over the Dirtbags since 2010.
Coupled with Hawai'i's 1-0 win over UC Santa Barbara, the Mustangs moved into a tie for second place with the Gauchos and Cal State Fullerton in the Big West. UC Irvine leads with an 11-3 record following its 10-inning 5-4 win over Cal State Fullerton.
Cal Poly won its seventh straight game at home and all have been come-from-behind affairs. On Saturday, Long Beach State built 1-0 and 3-1 leads before the Mustangs came back.
Senior southpaw Taylor Chris (2-1) pitched five scoreless innings in relief for the win, allowing just one hit with two walks and five strikeouts. Provencher (3-2) suffered the loss.
Cal Poly's 10 hits included three singles by junior second baseman Mark Mathias and a double and home run by Zehner.
Third baseman Alex DeGoti, who entered the game with a .048 batting average, singled and doubled for the Dirtbags and knocked in his first run of the year with a sixth-inning single.
Long Beach State scored in the second inning as Tristan Mercadel tripled and came home on Alex Bishop's groundout. Cal Poly tied the game at 1-1 in the third inning on Zehner's grounder to third base.
After the Dirtbags scored twice in the top of the sixth inning on DeGoti's RBI single and a groundout by Joey Sanchez, the Mustangs closed the gap to 3-2 in their half of the sixth on Jordan Ellis' groundout and tied the game in the seventh on a bloop single to center field by Mathias moments after a Long Beach State throwing error on a pickoff attempt at second base.
In the sixth, Zehner and sophomore catcher Brett Barbier hit back-to-back doubles on fly balls lost in the lights in left-center field, setting the stage for the RBI groundout by Ellis.
Both teams had numerous other opportunities to score but each squad stranded 12 runners on the basepaths.
Long Beach State is now 4-11 on the road this season.
Neither starter was involved in the decision. Mustang freshman southpaw Kyle Smith allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings with three walks and four strikeouts while Long Beach State right-hander Chris Mathewson gave up three runs (two earned) and seven hits in seven innings with one walk and four strikeouts.
Final game of the series will be played Sunday at 1 o'clock with sophomore right-hander Slater Lee (1-0, 3.72 ERA) of Cal Poly to face Long Beach State junior right-hander Tanner Brown (4-2, 2.18 ERA).
Photos by Ray Ambler | RA Photos