SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Designated hitter Elijah Skipps (pictured above) belted a pair of three-run home runs, shortstop Kyle Marinconz added a two-run shot and southpaw Trent Shelton pitched six solid innings for his first Mustang victory as Cal Poly completed a sweep of its three-game Big West Conference and Blue-Green Rivalry series against UC Santa Barbara with a 9-2 triumph Sunday at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Cal Poly swept a series for the first time this season, swept the Gauchos in Santa Barbara for the first time in 10 years and moved to within one game of the .500 mark for the first time since the opening weekend of the 2017 campaign.
The Mustangs will take a 26-27 overall mark and 14-7 Big West record into their final series of the 2017 season against UC Riverside on Thursday through Saturday inside Baggett Stadium.
Though Cal Poly is out of the running for a first-place finish in the Big West and an NCAA regional playoff berth, the Mustangs can still achieve a winning season and second-place Big West finish. Currently tied for second place with Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly will finish in the upper half of the conference standings for the 13th time in Larry Lee's 15 season as head coach.
Cal State Fullerton fell to CSUN 8-4 Sunday. Long Beach State clinched its first outright Big West crown since 2003 with a 2-1 win over Hawai'i at Blair Field.
With Sunday's win, Cal Poly has won six straight games against the Gauchos dating back to last year's sweep at Baggett Stadium. The Mustangs, who started the year 2-9 and were nine games under the .500 mark, have won 18 of their last 29 contests and have claimed six of their seven Big West series.
Cal Poly, which had scored just 16 runs in the first inning entering Sunday's game, jumped to a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Marinconz doubled to knock in the first run and Skipps crushed the first of his two three-run home runs over the right-field fence.
Skipps provided the highlight in the three-run sixth-inning rally as well, a three-run blast over the wall in right-center field, for a 7-0 Mustang lead. Skipps entered the day with just two homers this year.
UC Santa Barbara averted a shutout with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth as center fielder Tommy Jew hit a two-run home run to left-center field, his third of the year.
Cal Poly added its final two runs in the seventh on the two-run home run by Marinconz, his second of the series and third of the season.
Marinconz went 4-for-5 with two singles, a double and a home run, driving in three runs and lifting his average to a season-high .280. Skipps and center Alex McKenna each added two hits as Cal Poly outhit UC Santa Barbara 10-3.
Jew had all three of the Gauchos' hits.
Shelton (1-0) (pictured at right) struck out six and walked one over six innings. The two runs he allowed were unearned. Slater Lee secured the final nine outs for his second save, allowing no runs and one hit with no walks and four strikeouts.
The loss went to Gaucho starter Liam Steigerwald (1-1) as he surrendered four runs and five hits in five innings with two walks and one strikeout.
Cal Poly hit .325 in the series, Marinconz leading the way by going 9-for-15 with two doubles, a pair of home runs and six RBI. Nick Meyer was 6-for-12 with a double and triple, while Kevin Morgan and McKenna both had five hits, Morgan driving in five runs.
Games against UC Riverside will begin at 6 p.m. both Thursday and Friday and 1 o'clock on Saturday.
Photos courtesy of Cal Poly Baseball Student Manager Jack Duffy