Mark DeVincenzi had more time than he wanted to think about the last cutter he threw.
It ended up in the Baggett Stadium parking lot on Friday, a tie-breaking grand slam that proved to be the key hit by Cal in a two-run win over the Cal Poly baseball team in the series opener.
Two days later, the junior reliever got a second shot at the Golden Bears.
“I was hoping I could get in yesterday,” DeVincenzi said Sunday, “Especially being a reliever, you just have to sit there and think about that.
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“That sat in my belly for the last two nights. I guess the best way to put it is: Redemption.”
Completely abandoning a cut fastball that had been his bread and butter since his arrival in San Luis Obispo, DeVincenzi put up zeros in the final 32⁄3 innings to preserve a one-run Mustangs lead and earn his second save of the season in a 6-5 win that broke a five-game losing streak. Sticking with a fastball-curveball combination, DeVincenzi allowed just one hit after relieving starter DJ Mauldin in the sixth.
He shook off a curveball to go to the cutter that Cal first baseman Mark Canha lined over the wall in left for the grand slam on Friday.
“The past two years, I’ve kind of lived off my cutter, and it’s just not here right now,” DeVincenzi said, “and actually, today is the first time since being at Cal Poly I didn’t throw one cutter.
“I talked to (pitching coach Jason Kelly) about that, and I just kind of trusted and went with his judgements ... So that’s more reason that today was all the more sweet.”
Despite dropping the series 2-1 to the Golden Bears (11-7), the Mustangs (7-11) are hoping this victory — their first one-run game so far this season — can be the catalyst that turns around what has started out as a disappointing year.
There were encouraging signs.
Mauldin (2-0, 9.45 ERA), a fifth-year senior who has yo-yoed between the bullpen and starting rotation each season, stepped in capably for ailing ace Mason Radeke.
Even though Mauldin allowed five runs, he had a no-hitter through the first three innings and ended the fifth pitching the Mustangs to a 6-1 lead.
Dealing with a throwing injury of his own that has limited his range of motion, Mauldin ran out of gas in the sixth, when he gave up a two-run double and a two-run home run.
“Mauldin has a lot of guts, and he’s not anywhere close to 100 percent,” Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said, “but he’s 100 percent of whatever he has, and that’s important.
“Hopefully, his stamina will continue to grow, and he’ll be able to give you a few more outs, but that was a real positive note because that gives us somebody else on weekends.”
Radeke (3-1, 2.95 ERA) sat out with soreness in his throwing arm and is also nursing an infection in his non-pitching hand that he said might be related to a bug bite he got in his sleep.
The soreness is more troubling than the bite, and Lee does not expect Radeke to be able to pitch in time for Tuesday’s game against Fresno State or next weekend’s series at UCLA.
So, the Mustangs remain a team that will have to rely on outscoring opponents.
Cal Poly did just that with nine singles on Sunday. J.J. Thompson started a two-out, three-run rally with a single in the bottom of the second and finished 2 for 3 with two runs. Bobby Crocker, who had a team-high eight RBI in the series, batted 3 for 5 with three RBI on Sunday.
“It’s exactly what we needed,” Crocker said of the victory. “We played like we were the better team, and we haven’t been lately. I think that’s a big turnaround. We took a big step today from the way we’ve been playing.”