Joey Wagman is one victory away from tying the Cal Poly baseball program’s all-time single-season record for wins.
But like most following the Mustangs’ season, the Friday night ace is less concerned about the record books and more focused on making sure he gets more than one more start.
“I don’t really want to look ahead to next week,” Wagman said, “but when we go up to Pacific on Thursday, we’re just going to try to get Game 1 of the series, try to get in the postseason and that’s all it really means. That’s what really matters right now. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
In his swan song at Baggett Stadium, Wagman earned a 5-1 victory over Cal State Northridge to open the penultimate regular-season Big West Conference series for Cal Poly (35-16, 13-9 Big West).
There are two more games left against the second-place Matadors (31-21, 15-7 Big West), beginning with today’s 1 p.m. start, but if Wagman can win his next start Thursday at last-place Pacific, he will tie Garrett Olson’s program record.
Olson, the left-hander and former Major League pitcher, had 12 wins for Cal Poly in 2005, when the Mustangs were infamously snubbed from the postseason with a 36-20 record.
Friday’s victory was also Wagman’s 25th at Cal Poly, tying him with Mustangs hall of famer and San Francisco Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, who went on to play 14 Major League seasons with the Giants, the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies.
With a fastball in the mid-80s, Wagman is not the Major League prospect of his predecessors.
His strength is his ability to mix a potent curveball with his fastball, slider and changeup.
His specialty is winning.
“He just has the mindset,” Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said. “He believes in himself, he’s a competitor and he mixes. He doesn’t allow hitters to get comfortable with any one particular pitch, and when he gets in jams, he pitches his way out of it.”
Wagman got out of his stickiest situation Friday, striking out back-to-back Cal State Northridge hitters looking with the bases loaded in the sixth.
He got out of that inning unscathed, and the only run he allowed came on an infield single by Nate Ring in the fourth.
Wagman finished with one earned run on nine hits and a walk while striking out nine in seven innings and upping his conference-leading strikeout total to 96 in 96 1⁄3 innings.
His 38 strikeouts looking also lead the Big West.
All those strikeouts and victories mean to him, however, is “that we’ve started off each series pretty well. We’ve taken Game 1 of the series 11 times, which is great. You put your team on the right foot.”
The accomplishment will feel somewhat hollow if the Mustangs don’t get to their second NCAA Division I regional in program history.
Cal Poly received an at-large berth in 2009 but was left out in 2005 and last season, when the Mustangs also went 36-20 but suffered from a low RPI ranking.
After the victory over the Matadors, Cal Poly ranked a season-best 24th in RPI according to warrennolan. com, which is more immediate and a very close approximation to the NCAA’s official rankings.
That ranking bodes well for the Mustangs, who have already been mathematically eliminated from winning the Big West title and the conference’s automatic NCAA berth and will rely on another at-large berth.
Cal Poly, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara are in a three-way tie for third place in the Big West after Friday’s games.
Their conference finish, though it could be as high as second, has little to do with a postseason berth at this point, Lee said. The Mustangs simply need to continue winning and they will be safely into the NCAA field.
“Everything that we’ve done so far is getting us in the right direction,” Lee said. “We know on paper what we need to do. We just never talk about it.”
They did it Friday mostly on the strength of a single inning.
Elliot Stewart had a two-run bases-loaded double during a four-run rally that broke the game open in the bottom of the third.
John Schuknecht tripled to lead off the inning and was driven in by a Denver Chavez single in the next at-bat. Nick Torres added an RBI single three batters later.
Torres was 2 for 4 and added an RBI double in the fourth. Chavez was 2 for 5, and Schuknecht was 2 for 3 with two runs.
Reed Reilly finished the game off on the mound for the Mustangs, striking out five of the six batters he faced.