Penciled in as the starting shortstop and No. 3 hitter in the preseason, expectations were high right out of the gate for the talented true freshman infielder from San Leandro.
Not unlike most first-year players, it took Beesley some time to adjust to the speed of the college game and the consistently high-caliber pitching. He’s played six positions defensively and moved around the batting order along the way.
But Beesley’s confidence remained steady as he improved his batting average from .160 three weeks into the season to the .306 mark he currently owns — the third-highest average on the team behind sophomore Alex McKenna (.364) and senior Michael Sanderson (.360).
“You saw glimpses, but it wasn’t very consistent early on,” head coach Larry Lee said. “Now, he gives you a quality at-bat every time. He has the ability to hit higher-end pitching, and having him and McKenna at the top part of the lineup … our lineup goes as they go.”
The Mustangs have made improvements across the board since the start of Big West Conference play three weeks ago.
That progress will be measured in earnest this weekend when Cal Poly (16-19, 6-3 Big West) hosts No. 8-ranked Cal State Fullerton in a three-game series inside Baggett Stadium.
The high-scoring Titans (23-12, 5-1 Big West) enter the 6 p.m. Friday series opener first in the conference standings, having won eight of their last 10 games. They will test the Mustangs in every facet of the game, Lee said, and won’t give away many extra opportunities with sloppy play.
“You always look forward to playing good teams, facing good competition — that’s why we play,” Beesely said. “If we could win the series, get two out three, stay toward the top, that’s our goal.”
That formula has served Cal Poly well this month, earning Big West series victories against UC Irvine, Hawaii and UC Davis. While Cal State Fullerton figures to be a more significant challenge, the Mustangs feel like they’re playing a strong brand of baseball as well.
You always look forward to playing good teams, facing good competition — that’s why we play.
Cal Poly has won eight of its last 11 games and turned a corner offensively. After struggling to consistently score early on, the Mustangs have averaged more than six runs per game over their last 11 contests.
It starts at the top with McKenna, who backs up his team-high .364 average with 30 runs, 52 hits, eight doubles, three home runs, 21 RBI and seven stolen bases.
Beesley has settled into the No. 2 spot in the order since returning from a concussion he suffered during a base-running accident against UC Irvine, which forced him to miss the Hawaii series.
In the five games since, Beesley has gone a combined 10-for-21 with a double, two triples, six runs and six RBI.
He’s also embraced his position as Cal Poly’s everyday third baseman, part of a starting infield that includes sophomore Kyle Marinconz at shortstop, true freshman Scott Ogrin at second base and Sanderson at first.
Sanderson has played a leading role in the Mustangs’ offensive growth. He’s hitting .395 over the last 21 games and improved his average 120 points during that span.
While Lee is encouraged by the overall improvement, he’s not putting the cart before the horse.
“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” Lee said of facing Cal State Fullerton. “They’re the perennial Big West team, and they’re always one of the best teams out of the West and that usually means that they’re one of the better teams in the country.”
The Titans’ résumé speaks for itself: 16 Big West championships, including five since 2011, 17 College World Series appearances and four national championships.
That type of pedigree is something the Mustangs are striving for.
“We’re just trying to create that culture,” Beesley said.
Series Preview: Cal Poly vs. No. 8 Cal State Fullerton
Weekend pitching matchups
Friday: Erich Uelmen (2-5, 3.25 ERA) vs. Connor Seabold (4-4, 2.67 ERA)
Saturday: Spencer Howard (2-1, 1.79 ERA) vs. John Gavin (5-0, 2.22 ERA)
Sunday: Bobby Ay (1-3, 4.08 ERA) vs. Gavin Velasquez (3-0, 2.90 ERA)