SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Kyle Smith and Justin Bruihl combined on a two-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and John Schuknecht drove in three runs as Cal Poly opened a three-game Big West Conference baseball series against first-place UC Santa Barbara with a 7-0 victory Friday night before 1,302 in Baggett Stadium.
Smith (5-3) matched his career high with nine strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings and Bruihl secured the final five outs, three via strikeout, as Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs moved into a tie with the Gauchos for second place in the Big West, both with 5-2 conference records. Cal State Fullerton, playing out of conference this weekend, is 7-2.
Cal Poly is 23-13 for the season with a four-game winning streak, recording its fourth shutout of the season and playing errorless defense for the third game in a row, a season high. UC Santa Barbara, which entered the game with an RPI of eight and national rankings ranging from Nos. 9 to 13, slipped to 25-8-1.
Smith retired the side in order twice, did not allow a Gaucho baserunner to reach third base and only two UC Santa Barbara runners reached second. Smith did not allow a hit after the second inning and notched seven of his strikeouts in the first four frames, finishing with 128 pitches.
Bruihl struck out the first three Gaucho batters he faced and induced the final two to hit fly balls to the outfield, retiring all five UC Santa Barbara hitters to face him.
The Mustangs defeated one of the top pitchers in Division I as UC Santa Barbara's Shane Bieber, who entered the game with a 7-1 mark and 2.74 ERA, surrendered seven runs and 13 hits in a complete-game loss. Bieber walked one and struck out three.
It remained 1-0 until the fifth when, with two outs, George produced his third single of the game, Barbier was hit by a pitch for the 11th time this season and Schuknecht one-hopped the center-field wall for a two-run double.
Cal Poly extended its lead to 5-0 with two more runs in the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded, George scored on a wild pitch. Schuknecht singled to right field for his third RBI of the night.
Final two Mustang runs of the game came in the eighth as Kyle Marinconz singled to left field with the bases loaded for one RBI and George's sacrifice fly to center field accounted for the last tally.
George went 3-for-4 with one RBI, his fourth three-hit game of the season, while Marinconz, Barbier, Schuknecht and Nick Meyer all had a pair of hits.
Meyer also threw out Tevin Mitchell trying to steal second base in the fifth inning, For Meyer, he has thrown out 10 would-be base stealers to go along with nine pickoffs this season.
Marinconz, George, Barbier and Schuknecht, Cal Poly's top four hitters in the batting order, combined to go 9-for-17 with six RBI. Barbier, who has reached base safely in all 36 contests played this season, has hit in 12 straight games.
UC Santa Barbara's two hits were a first-inning single by right fielder Michael McAdoo and a second-inning double by shortstop Clay Fisher.
Second game of the Blue-Green Rivalry series will be played Saturday night at 6 with sophomore right-hander Erich Uelmen (4-0, 2.90 ERA) on the mound for Cal Poly, facing UC Santa Barbara freshman right-hander Noah Davis (3-1, 3.81 ERA).
The series finale is set for Sunday at 1 o'clock.