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Cal Poly Baseball Team Opens Fall Practice on Friday Afternoon

Cal Poly Baseball Team Opens Fall Practice on Friday Afternoon
SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- The Cal Poly baseball team opens its six-week Fall Practice schedule on Friday armed with plenty of veterans and a solid group of newcomers on the 2020 roster.
 
A total of 11 Mustangs started at least 19 games a year ago and all of them return, led by sophomore designated hitter Conagher Sands (.328, 26 RBIs in 2019), junior first baseman Tate Samuelson (.298, five home runs, 39 RBIs) and senior center fielder Bradlee Beesley (.283, 15 doubles, 35 RBIs).
 
Also add to the list of returnees outfielder Scott Ogrin, a redshirt last year due to injury who hit .266 as a true sophomore in 2018.
 
Ten pitchers also return, including three who started six or more games in 2019. That group includes sophomore southpaw Chase Watkins (0-3, 5.20 ERA in 2019), junior right-hander Darren Nelson (2-5, 4.99 ERA) and junior left-hander Andrew Alvarez (1-3, 5.10 ERA).
 
Junior righty Taylor Dollard, who compiled a 5-0 mark, 2.89 ERA and four saves in 2019, likely will move into the starting rotation next spring.
 
Dollard was a first-team All-Big West Conference honoree last spring while Samuelson, Beesley and Sands were honorable mentions.
 
In all, 23 Mustang lettermen return while the team lost seven, including starting pitcher Bobby Ay, a ninth-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and reliever Michael Clark, who was a senior. Ay was 9-1 with a 3.27 ERA while Clark posted a 6-3 mark and 2.61 ERA with eight saves.
 
Heading the list of newcomers are potential starters Brooks Lee at shortstop, Taison Corio at second base, Nick Marinconz at third base and Brett Wells behind the plate. 
 
Lee is a 2019 graduate of San Luis Obispo High School and son of Mustang head coach Larry Lee. Corio is a transfer from San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton while Wells, who played as a freshman at Dayton, is a transfer from Long Beach City College.
 
Marinconz, whose older brother Kyle played in the infield for Cal Poly from 2016-18 and is currently in the Washington Nationals minor league system, is a graduate of Valley Christian High School in San Jose.
 
Another newcomer to the squad is pitching coach Jake Silverman, an assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton, UCLA and Nevada over the last 11 seasons. Most recently, he was an assistant at Nevada from 2016-19.
 
"We will be much improved on the position player side from both an offensive and defensive standpoint," said Lee, entering his 18th season at the helm of the Mustangs. "We have a lot of experience returning and are able to have a number of new players who should step into a starting role.
 
"There are a ton of question marks on the pitching side," added Lee, who earned his 1,000th career coaching victory during the final weekend of the 2019 season. "Dollard is the only returning pitcher with a history of success and we're trying to convert him from reliever to starter. 
 
"The success of this team will rely heavily on the development of our pitchers."
 
Fall Ball wraps up Nov. 23.
 
Last season, Cal Poly earned its third straight and sixth overall second-place Big West finish since joining the conference in 1997, posting a 17-7 mark. The Mustangs won 26 of their final 45 games after a 2-9 start to finish 28-28 overall, their 17th season at or above the .500 mark since 2000, and kept alive all the way to the final day of the campaign a chance to claim their second Big West title in program history.
 
The 2020 season opens Feb. 14 with Cal Poly playing Vanderbilt, Michigan and Connecticut in the MLB4 Tournament at Scottsdale, Arizona. The Mustangs will play 35 of their 59 games at home, including five straight weekends from Feb. 20 through March 22.