Another series loss in which lack of pitching depth played a role in at least one loss has Cal Poly head baseball coach Larry Lee heading back to the drawing board in an effort to find effective starters behind Casey Bloomquist and Kyle Smith.
Next up: freshman Jarred Zill and, potentially, longtime reliever Taylor Chris.
“We’re pretty good on Fridays and Saturdays with Bloomquist and Kyle Smith pitching,” Lee said at Monday’s weekly Cal Poly press conference, “and after that, we’re still searching for more answers.”
Zill (0-1, 1.23 ERA) gets the nod in tonight’s game against Pepperdine, making his second career start although the Laguna Niguel native has yet to throw more than three innings in any of his five collegiate appearances.
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He gave up four unearned runs in his only start — a 5-2 loss at San Jose State in which he went three frames with four hits and a walk.
“We just want to see what he can do,” Lee said. “That way, at the end of the season, we have a better idea of where he stands, where our pitching staff stands.”
Another freshman, Andrew Bernstein (3-3, 4.45), handled the Sunday starter role the past two weeks but lost both starts, including failing to record an out while allowing four earned runs in a 13-2 loss at Cal State Fullerton.
“His stuff, as a freshman, isn’t quite good enough just yet,” Lee said. “The guys that are successful, you look at Bloomquist and Kyle Smith, they throw three pitches and they throw them for strikes. They aren’t scared, and it allows that type of pitcher to be successful. You never have to give in to a hitter.”
Sophomore Justin Calomeni (1-3, 6.08), who lost the Sunday role to Bernstein, is slated to reprise it in this week’s home series with Hawaii, although his only start since being moved lasted less than four innings.
Calomeni was tagged for seven runs — four earned — and nine hits in last Tuesday’s loss to Pepperdine.
That’s why, Lee said, Calomeni starting the Hawaii finale is contingent upon his performance in a simulated game on Thursday.
“If he’s good, he’ll start on Sunday,” Lee said. “If he’s not, we’ll probably go with Taylor Chris, who I don’t think has had a career start but he seems to be our next best option.”
Chris, a senior, has not made a start in his Cal Poly career, making all 68 of his previous appearances out of the bullpen.
Mustangs fit and rolling
Riding a five-match winning streak, Cal Poly head coach Nick Carless said the team’s overall fitness and on-court philosophy are the biggest factors.
That, and a No. 1 doubles team that’s only lost once in dual competition.
“No. 1 doubles is playing as good as any team I’ve coached,” said Carless of the sophomore duo of Ben Donovan and Corey Pang, “and I think as good as any team playing right now in the entire country.”
Donovan and Pang are 14-2 overall as a doubles team and a combined 32-22 in singles for the Mustangs (14-7, 3-0 Big West). Senior Naveen Beasley has also won five straight matches and is 9-2 at the No. 5 singles spot.
“He’s such a great kid who, since the day he came to Cal Poly, has embodied everything that a student-athlete should be,” said Carless, whose Mustangs are expected to crack the top 50 when the latest rankings are released today. “I know his experience alone down there in the lower part of the lineup is going to give us a great chance to win matches, and on top of that, he’s a very good player.”
Tyler helps Cal Poly earn first two Big West wins
Head coach Jenny Condon said an attacking approach helped the Mustangs (19-21, 2-4) earn its first two conference wins, while the opposite philosophy worked to Courtney Tyler’s benefit.
“She’s really worked on her discipline at the plate, and she’s swinging at good pitches,” said Condon after Tyler homered in each of Cal Poly’s wins over UC Santa Barbara. “When you do that, you have a lot more success.”
Following a sweep at the hands of CSUN and the series win over the Gauchos, the Mustangs are tied for sixth in the Big West heading into this week’s series at last place UC Davis (13-19, 1-5).
“We beat ourselves up sometimes by not showing up and not being ready to play,” Condon said, “so I think we attacked all three games this weekend on both sides of the ball and had really good intensity.”
First test for Sampson-led Mustangs approaches
Cal Poly and new head coach Steve Sampson are still getting acclimated to one another, but early returns are encouraging after the Mustangs opened their spring season with a 2-0 win over Cal State Monterey Bay last week.
Now comes the first real test on Saturday, when Cal Poly hosts defending Pac-12 champion Stanford at 7 p.m.
“One of the great things about Stanford is they’re going to test us,” Sampson said. “It’s going to test our ability to play for each other and be very well organized.”
The fall starting lineup is still taking shape and neither team will be regular-season fit, Sampson said, but Saturday signals could go a long way toward establishing bonds and gaining trust.
“I talked to the players about relationships on the field,” Sampson said. “It’s not just about systems that you play in, but the relationships on the field. We’re establishing those relationships now.”