SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — For the first time this season, the Cal Poly baseball team is above the .500 mark.
On Senior Day at Baggett Stadium, junior second baseman Mark Mathias drove in three runs with a home run and a double, junior shortstop Peter Van Gansen singled three times and redshirt freshman Jarred Zill (pictured at right) allowed just one run and four hits over seven innings as the Mustangs earned their second series sweep of the year, defeating UC Riverside 11-1 before 1,204 fans Sunday afternoon.
All six seniors and junior first baseman Ryan Drobny, who will graduate in June, played in the home finale for Cal Poly, which won for the 13th time in its last 15 games at home and improved to 26-25 for the season and 13-8 for a third-place tie with UC Irvine in the Big West.
UC Riverside fell to 13-39 and 2-19, losing for the 12th straight time under first-year head coach Troy Percival.
Senior third baseman Tommy Pluschkell capped a strong weekend with two singles, knocking in a run in the second inning. Pluschkell, who hit his first career home run in Friday's 6-2 victory, was 5-for-10 in the series with four RBI.
Center fielder Jordan Ellis, also a senior, produced a two-run double in the eighth inning and a single while left fielder Zack Zehner had one single and one run scored.
Drobny, who majors in business administration and will pursue his MBA in the fall, reached base three times as he walked twice and was hit by a pitch in the helmet. He scored once.
The other three Mustang seniors playing their final home game Sunday are pitchers.
Lefty Taylor Chris secured four outs, facing the minimum four batters and retiring them all, while Danny Zandona allowed two hits but also struck out a pair of Highlanders to end the game.
Michael Dingilian, a pitcher by trade, played center field for the final out, fielding the two hits allowed by Zandona.
Cal Poly, outhit in the first two games by UC Riverside, compiled a 16-6 advantage in the series finale, winning on Sunday for only the third time in 12 games this season. All three wins were at home as the Mustangs were 0-5 on the road on Sundays.
Cal Poly's only other series sweep this year was against Hawaii in mid-April. The Mustangs won all four Big West series at home and have won six series this season — Pacific and Oregon State on the road and Hawaii, Long Beach State, CSUN and UC Riverside at home. Cal Poly split four home games against Sacramento State in March.
The Mustangs, eight games under the .500 mark on April 4, have won 15 of their last 22 contests heading into next weekend's season-ending Big West series at UC Davis.
Cal Poly led throughout Sunday's game, scoring twice in the second inning and, after the Highlanders scored their lone run in the top of the third, three more in the bottom of the third for a 5-1 cushion.
Junior right fielder John Schuknecht's double and Pluschkell's single gave the Mustangs their early 2-0 lead. In the third, sophomore catcher Brett Barbier knocked in two runs with a double to left-center field and Schuknecht's sacrifice fly to right plated the third run of the inning and fifth of the game. Barbier has 27 RBI in his last 20 games after collecting just six in the first 31 games of the season.
Junior designated hitter Brian Mundell's RBI single in the fourth gave Cal Poly a 6-1 lead and Mathias' first home run of the season and third of his Mustang career in the sixth made it 7-1.
Cal Poly added two more runs in both the seventh and eighth innings. Mathias doubled to right-center field to drive in two in the seventh and Ellis doubled down the right-field line in the eighth for two RBI to complete the scoring.
Zill, the seventh Mustang pitcher to start a series finale this season, walked one and struck out five to improve to 4-1 on the year. Zill, who allowed the leadoff batter to reach base 49 percent of the time in his previous 10 appearances on the mound, allowed just two Highlander leadoff hitters to reach base in seven innings Sunday.
Zill's previous six starts this season were in midweek games. Opponents are hitting just .218 against the Capistrano Valley High School graduate and he lowered his ERA to 3.03 with his performance Sunday.
UC Riverside's six hits included a triple and double by catcher Ryan Lillie and doubles by second baseman Edgar Morales and designated hitter Joe Chavez. Little led off the seventh with his triple off the left-field wall, but Zill induced two pop-ups to Pluschkell at third base and a grounder to shortstop to end the threat.
The loss went to Highlander senior southpaw Kevin Sprague (3-7) as he allowed six runs (four earned) and eight hits over 3 2/3 innings with one walk and five strikeouts. Each of UC Riverside's three relievers allowed at least one run and two hits as well.
Cal Poly is hitting .298 as a team over its last 30 games since falling to Dartmouth on March 23. That loss dropped the Mustangs to 7-14 overall and 2-7 at home. Cal Poly is 19-11 since that game, including a 15-4 home record which gives the Mustangs a 17-11 record in Baggett Stadium this season.
The series at UC Davis will be played Thursday through Saturday.
Photo of Jarred Zill courtesy of Owen Main | www.fansmanship.com