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Cal Poly to Host Cal State Fullerton for Big West Series This Weekend

Cal Poly to Host Cal State Fullerton for Big West Series This Weekend
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly (12-14 overall, 3-0 Big West), which opened Big West Conference play by sweeping CSUN over the weekend, continues its 12-game home stand as well as Big West Conference action this weekend with a three-game series against defending Big West champion Cal State Fullerton (12-13 overall, 1-2 Big West) inside Baggett Stadium. Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs and the Titans of eighth-year head coach Rick Vanderhook square off Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 8 o'clock and a 1 p.m. series finale Sunday.
All three games of the series will be broadcast on ESPN Radio (1280 AM and 101.7 FM) with Chris Sylvester providing the play-by-play. Saturday's game also will be televised by ESPNU with Sam Farber doing the play-by-play and Wes Clements serving as analyst. Links for live stats and audio and video streams are available on the baseball schedule page at
Cal Poly has won 10 of its last 15 games after a 2-9 start, sweeping Columbia in a four-game series, splitting four games versus Saint Mary's and opening Big West play with 2-1, 3-1 and 4-2 victories over CSUN last weekend inside Baggett Stadium. The Mustangs fell to Santa Clara, 7-6, in 10 innings on Tuesday.

Catching Up with the Titans

Coming off a 36-25 campaign, including an 18-6 mark for first place in the Big West Conference, Cal State Fullerton returns 16 letter winners, including six position starters and five pitchers. Top returnees are shortstop Sahid Valenzuela (.272, nine home runs, 22 RBI in 2018), second baseman Hank LoForte (.339, 35 RBI) and center fielder Mitchell Berryhill (.295, 10 steals, 23 RBI). The pitching staff is led by right-handers Tanner Bibee (3-5, 3.86 ERA in 2018) and Dillon Brown (1-2, 4.97 ERA) along with lefty Timothy Josten (1-2, 4.15 ERA).
Coached by Vanderhook (eighth season, 283-165, Trinity '03), Cal State Fullerton has a .287 team batting average through 25 games. The Titans have stolen 16 of 24 bases, sport a 5.09 staff ERA and have compiled a .980 fielding percentage with 19 errors in 25 games.
The Titans opened their 2019 season by winning four of six games in tournaments in Arizona and at San Diego State, but Cal State Fullerton lost two of three games to Stanford, New Mexico, James Madison and, last week, opened Big West play by losing two of three contests at home against UC Santa Barbara. All three games were decided by one or two runs. In addition, the Titans swept Long Beach State in a non-conference series two weeks ago.
Top Titan hitters to date are LoForte (.320, four doubles, three triples, 12 RBI), Valenzuela (.315, five doubles, 16 RBI), Berryhill (.384, four doubles, 15 RBI) and left fielder Isaiah Garcia (.377, six doubles, two home runs, 18 RBI). Bibee tops the pitching staff with a 3-4 record and 3.47 ERA, followed by righty Michael Knorr (2-2, 5.71 ERA) and Josten (0-4, 6.75 ERA). Right-hander Michael Weisberg has four saves, a 1-0 mark and 2.00 ERA.
Cal State Fullerton has won 30 conference titles in 44 Division I seasons, has appeared in 40 regionals, including each of the last 27 years, along with 14 Super Regionals and 18 College World Series, capturing national championships in 1979, 1984, 1995 and 2004. The Titans are 618-213 since late 1992 at Goodwin Field and have never had a losing season in 46 Division I campaigns.
Vanderhook returned home to Cal State Fullerton on June 24, 2011, where he spent the better part of a quarter century as a player and assistant coach under head coaches Augie Garrido, Larry Cochell and George Horton. He was also an assistant coach alongside now-departed head coach Dave Serrano from 1997-2004 and spent three seasons as an assistant coach to John Savage at UCLA from 2009-11.
Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton have met 113 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1966. The Titans hold a 70-43 advantage, sweeping the Mustangs a year ago at Goodwin Field. Cal Poly won two of three games at Baggett Stadium each of the two previous years, bouncing back from opening-series losses with a pair of victories each time. Cal Poly swept the 2014 series in Baggett Stadium and has enjoyed some recent success with 16 victories in the last 36 meetings over the previous 12 seasons, winning series at home in 2007, 2011, 2014, 2016 and 2017.
Cal Poly is 21-58 against Cal State Fullerton since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season. Lee is 17-31 against Cal State Fullerton while Vanderhook is 11-10 as a head coach against Cal Poly.

Cal Poly Update

Lee welcomed back 18 letter winners this spring, including five position players who made 25 or more starts in 2018, and eight pitchers, including three who have made 10 or more career starts.
The list of veterans is led by junior center fielder Bradlee Beesley, who hit .277 with 12 doubles and 33 RBI a year ago, was a second-team All-Big West selection in 2017 after hitting .305 and also had a solid Cape Cod League season with Yarmouth-Dennis last summer, hitting .368. After hitting .517 in the first seven games this season, Beesley has cooled off, sporting a .257 mark with 17 RBI.
In addition to Beesley, also returning are sophomore first baseman Tate Samuelson (.280, five home runs, 38 RBI in 2018), senior shortstop Dylan Doherty and sophomore third baseman Nick DiCarlo, both .226 hitters a year ago. Junior utility player Scott Ogrin, who hit .266 with 26 RBI last spring, likely will  miss the 2019 season with a foot injury.
The pitching corps is led by sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (5-4, 4.79 ERA in 2018), senior righty Jarred Zill (0-1, 3.00 ERA in five starts a year ago), who missed most of both the 2017 and 2018 seasons due to injury, and junior right-hander Bobby Ay (1-6, 5.40 ERA in 2017, made just one appearance in 2018 before he was sidelined with an injury).
Leading the team seven weeks into the 2019 season is Samuelson, who is hitting .330 after going 22-for-50 (.440) over the past four weeks, followed by middle infielder Connor Gurnik with a .318 average, three doubles and seven RBI. Gurnik had a four-hit game Tuesday against Santa Clara and his second three-hit contest in the series finale versus CSUN. Sophomore right fielder Elijah Greene is hitting .286 with eight RBI. 
Cal Poly's weekend rotation so far this season has consisted of sophomore right-hander Darren Nelson (2-4, 3.18 ERA), senior righty Jarred Zill (2-4, 3.03 ERA) and junior right-hander Bobby Ay (2-0, 2.97 ERA). Freshman Bryan Woo (1-1, 6.92 ERA), also a right-hander, pitched five innings for the win against Columbia on March 9 and has been Cal Poly's fourth starter in four-game series.

Mustang Notes

A year ago, the Mustangs were No. 1 in the Big West in team hitting, on-base percentage, hits, doubles, triples, walks and turning double plays. Twenty of Cal Poly's 24 Big West games were decided by four or fewer runs. The Mustangs defeated UC Davis 16-0 and the three remaining games were six-run decisions, Cal Poly winning twice, and the Mustangs won six of 13 weekend series, sweeping Dartmouth, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside.
Including this season, the Mustangs have been tormented by slow starts — 3-11 before finishing 28-28 (won seven of last nine games) in 2017, 6-10 before wrapping up the 2018 campaign 30-27 (winning their final seven contests), and 2-9 prior to the Columbia series sweep. Cal Poly also opened the 2015 season 7-14 but rallied to finish 27-27 (winning 17 of its last 26 games).
Cal Poly will play 17 games against 2018 NCAA Regional participants this spring, is in the midst of a 12-game home stand, will play 30 home games in all and will play 10 contests against Pac-12 schools — three-game series against Cal and USC at home and versus College World Series participant Washington and a single game against Stanford on the road. The Mustangs' first three series on the road this season — at Oklahoma, Washington and Baylor — were against teams that earned regional berths a year ago along with Cal State Fullerton, Saint Mary's and Stanford.
Cal Poly has had just three losing seasons since 2000 and has reached the 30-win mark 12 times this century. The Mustangs have won 178 of their last 245 home games for a 72.7 winning percentage.
Cal Poly, which earned NCAA regional berths in 2009, 2013 and 2014, captured its first Big West championship in 2014 and has five second-place finishes, four thirds and six fourths since becoming a member of the conference in 1997. Cal Poly finished in the top five of the Big West standings 14 times in Lee's previous 16 seasons with the Mustangs. Cal State Fullerton is the only other Big West team that can make the same claim.
While all 56 Mustang games in 2017 were played in the Golden State, Cal Poly played four games in a tournament at Surprise, Ariz., visited Nebraska for a four-game series and traveled to Hawai'i for a three-game Big West series in 2018. In addition to Oklahoma and Washington, the Mustangs made another out-of-state trip to Baylor this spring.
Over the last seven seasons from 2012-18, Cal Poly has won 240 games, the third-highest total among the 24 California schools with Division I programs. Averaging 35 wins per season during those seven campaigns, the victory total is eighth among 46 schools in the NCAA's West Region. In addition, from 2012-14, Cal Poly averaged 41 wins a year with 123 victories, more than any other Division I team in California, and the Mustangs have averaged 32.5 victories per season under Lee's guidance.
Lee (525-405-2) reached the 500-victory milestone last April 20 with a 5-4 triumph over Long Beach State. His 525 wins to date are No. 2 in the conference behind Fresno State's Bob Bennett (547) and Lee's 215 conference wins also are No. 2 in the Big West behind Long Beach State's Dave Snow (218).
Lee surpassed Berdy Harr (297-249-6 from 1973-83) as Cal Poly's winningest head baseball coach during the Pacific series in 2011. Lee earned 460 wins in 16 seasons at Cuesta College and notched his 460th Mustang victory on March 13, 2017 against Gonzaga. With 985 career wins at Cuesta and Cal Poly, Lee is just 15 victories shy of the 1,000 mark.
Next week, Cal Poly hosts Fresno State on Tuesday night to wrap up the 12-game home stand before embarking on a seven-game road trip with Big West series at UC Davis (April 12-14) and Long Beach State (April 18-20) plus a midweek game at Santa Clara (April 23).