SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Freshman right-hander Darren Nelson pitched into the eighth inning for the first time this season and junior center fielder Alex McKenna's two-run triple in the fourth inning sparked Cal Poly to a 5-2 victory over Long Beach State on Saturday night.
The victory clinched the Big West Conference baseball series for Cal Poly, which won on Friday night 5-4. The Mustangs improved to 18-19 for the season and 5-6 in the Big West.
Long Beach State, the defending Big West champion, fell to 16-23 and 3-5.
Coupled with Hawaii's 10-inning 6-4 win over Cal State Fullerton, Cal Poly leaped from an eighth-place tie into a tie for fourth place with CSUN and UC Davis, all 5-6 in conference contests and just two games behind co-leaders Hawai'i and UC Irvine (both 7-4).
Nelson (4-3) (pictured above), who lasted just 2 2/3 innings in his last start Sunday against UC Davis, retired the first 10 Long Beach State batters Saturday and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning when Jarren Duran doubled down the right-field line.
The Dirtbags went on to score twice in the inning to trail 5-2. Nelson finished with four strikeouts and four walks, allowing two runs and three hits over 7 1/3 innings.
Andrew Alvarez secured one out, Matt Arens notched three outs and Austin Dondanville earned his second save, inducing pinch-hitter Leonard Jones, the potential game-tying run, to fly out to center field with two runners on base.
Long Beach State also left the bases loaded in the eighth with two outs as Duran flied out to center field.
Cal Poly built a 5-0 lead with two runs in both the first and fourth innings and another in the fifth.
Bradlee Beesley and Nick Meyer both singled to knock in a run each in the first. McKenna's two-out triple to right-center field in the fourth made it 4-0 and Tate Samuelson tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth.
McKenna (pictured at left) had two of Cal Poly's nine hits, producing his 17th multiple-hit game of the year. Samuelson tripled and senior designated hitter Elijah Skipps added a double.
Long Beach State was held to just four hits, including a double by Duran.
The loss went to Dirtbag junior southpaw Clayton Andrews (3-7), who allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits over five innings with no walks and four strikeouts.
Final game of the series will be played Sunday at 1 o'clock with junior right-hander Michael Clark (2-3, 7.23 ERA) of Cal Poly to face Long Beach State freshman southpaw Adam Seminaris (1-4, 4.43 ERA).
Cal Poly, which opened the season by winning just one of four games in a tournament at Surprise, Ariz., has moved to within one game of the .500 mark five times since then, but was unable to even up the overall record on its first four tries.