RIVERSIDE, Calif. – No. 3/4/5 Cal Poly snapped a four-game losing streak the hard way Saturday night at the Riverside Sports Complex, overcoming a 3-0 deficit for a 7-5 Big West Conference baseball victory over UC Riverside.
The Mustangs evened the series at a game apiece, improving to 37-9 overall and 13-4 in Big West games. The Highlanders fell to 20-22 and 8-6.
UC Riverside jumped to a 3-0 lead with two runs in the first inning and another in the fourth.
Held to just one hit in the first four innings, Cal Poly broke through for single runs in the fifth and sixth frames to trim the deficit to a run.
Sophomore designated hitter Brian Mundell (pictured at right) tripled to deep center field leading off the fifth and, one out later, sophomore first baseman Ryan Drobny's sacrifice fly to left field scored Mundell.
Junior center fielder Jordan Ellis led off the sixth with a double to left-center field, moved to third on a wild pitch and came home on senior catcher Chris Hoo's safety squeeze bunt attempt. UC Riverside pitcher Zach Varela was charged with an error when he tried to flip the ball from his gloved hand and catcher Matthew Ellis dropped it.
Cal Poly grabbed the lead for the first time in the seventh. Mundell singled, sophomore shortstop Peter Van Gansen walked and both runners moved up 90 feet on Drobny's sacrifice bunt. Sophomore second baseman Mark Mathias brought both runners home with a first-pitch single up the middle.
The Mustangs added three insurance runs in the eighth for a 7-3 lead. Senior third baseman Jimmy Allen, Mundell and Mathias drove in the runs with RBI singles.
UC Riverside loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth and Francisco Tellez blooped a two-run single to shallow right field, cutting Cal Poly's lead to 7-5. Big West home run leader Nick Vilter, representing the potential go-ahead run, grounded into a force play at second to end the threat.
Junior southpaw Taylor Chris (4-0) earned the win in relief of starter Justin Calomeni, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings and allowing just three hits with three walks and no strikeouts. Junior right-hander Reed Reilly picked up his eighth save, pitching 2 1/3 frames and giving up two runs and two hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts.
The loss went to Varela (5-3), who allowed both runners to reach base prior to Mathias' go-ahead two-run single in the seventh. In six-plus innings, Varela surrendered four runs and four hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Mundell, 2-for-32 in his last eight games and dropped into the seventh spot in the Mustang batting order Saturday, responded with three hits to lead Cal Poly offensively. Junior left fielder Zack Zehner also had three hits while Mathias added a pair of hits and has hit safely in 33 of his last 35 games.
UC Riverside's top hitters were second baseman Joe Chavez, center fielder Devyn Bolasky, Tellez and right fielder David Andriese, each with two hits.
Rubber game of the three-game series – UC Riverside won Friday night 7-3 – will be played Sunday afternoon at 1 o'clock. Sophomore right-hander Casey Bloomquist (9-1, 1.27 ERA) of Cal Poly will face UC Riverside senior southpaw Ben Doucette (3-3, 4.40 ERA).
Sunday's game will be streamed on ESPN3.