Just like the rest of the Cal Poly baseball team’s season, there were some positives to point out late in Sunday’s 12-8 loss to Cal State Bakersfield, but the overall picture was still dissatisfying.
Senior outfielder Luke Yoder got the home run he needed to move all alone into second on the Mustangs’ all-time career list, but Cal Poly still fell victim to a freshman pitcher making his first start and clinched their first losing record at home in the 10-season history of Baggett Stadium.
Yoder ended a hitless day with a homer to deep left center in the top of the ninth inning, and Cal Poly (22-32) rallied for seven runs in the final two innings, but in coming up short, the Mustangs saw two double-digit hit streaks also come to an end.
“I was kind of bummed about the day in general,” said Yoder, who broke a tie with Monty Waltz with his 31st career home run. “The way I was looking at is I at least kind of salvaged a day, going 1 for 5 instead of the possibility of going 0 for 5 or staying 0 for 4 with a walk.”
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That’s kind of been the story of the season for the Mustangs, who at one time wallowed in a 10-27 record before coming back to win 12 of their past 17.
This winning stretch to close out the season has provided a welcome boost in morale, but it wasn’t quite enough to keep Baggett’s sterling record intact.
Cal Poly dropped to 14-17 at home this season and would have needed to sweep the Roadrunners to ensure a .500 record.
Instead, Cal State Bakersfield (26-29), which came into the game 0-5 against the Mustangs after dropping a 12-3 game Friday, surged to a 12-1 lead as the second-year program held on for its first win in San Luis Obispo.
“It just means that we overall had a bad year and we didn’t take care of business at home or on the road,” Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said of the sub-.500 home distinction. “Losing more than half your games at home doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just about wins and losses, and we have too many losses.
“Although we have done fairly well the last five weeks, our overall record is what it is.”
On his 19th birthday, Juan Padilla got the win for the Roadrunners. He ended up being charged with four earned runs in 71⁄3 innings, but through the seventh, he had two-hit the Mustangs with his effective fastball-slurve combination.
The freshman right-hander came into the game with a 3.38 ERA, an 0-1 record and having pitched just 182⁄3 innings of relief.
Padilla finally ran out of gas and walked the bases loaded in the eighth but prior to that had walked just one and struck out six.
“In the limited innings that he threw, opponents were hitting .190 off him,” Lee said. “So, he was doing something right. To two-hit us for most of the game at a very offensive ballpark just says that he did very well and we just didn’t do enough from an approach standpoint.”
David Van Ostrand went 0 for 5 to snap his 15-game hitting streak, a season long for the team, and Adam Melker was 0 for 2 with three walks to end his 12-game streak. Only junior right fielder Bobby Crocker had multiple hits for the Mustangs.
Crocker was 2 for 5 with a two doubles and three RBI, and freshman designated hitter Mitch Haniger was 1 for 3 with a triple.
Cal Poly starter DJ Mauldin had a forgettable final start in a Mustangs uniform. The senior righty allowed 11 runs, all earned in 32⁄3 innings and fell to 5-4 on the season with an 8.56 ERA.
He spotted Cal State Bakersfield four runs in the first by hitting a batter to load the bases, walking in two runs and allowing a two-run single.
Mauldin finishes a Cal Poly career in which he was called upon to change his roles numerous times. He bounced from the bullpen to the starting rotation on a yearly basis as the Mustangs struggled with pitching depth.
Next season, with more than half of the nine incoming recruits being pitchers, Lee said the pitching should be better, provided Mason Radeke can come back from an arm injury that sidelined him for all but four starts this season. Steven Fishback also has the opportunity to return after missing all of this season recovering from labrum surgery.
“I think offensively, we’ll have some question marks,” Lee said. “We should be able to play some defense. Maybe not as potent offensively, but I’m hoping to be much better on the mound. Better quality, better depth, but everything has to fall into place, making sure our recruits come and don’t get slopped up in the pro draft and make sure everybody comes back healthy.”
Though Cal Poly is slated to lose its No. 1, 2 and 4 hitters — all seniors — from this weekend’s lineup next season, the Mustangs will return sophomore second baseman Matt Jensen, who was a freshman All-American last year but had each of his two collegiate seasons ended by freak injuries.
Freshman outfielder Haniger, who was relegated to designated hitter by a back injury, will also be counted on heavily as will Crocker, who is hoping to have the type of breakout season Yoder is enjoying in his first draft-eligible season.
“I’ve definitely looked up to Luke,” Crocker said. “All year, he’s been consistent, hitting for power, hitting for numbers, stealing some bags. He’s just had an all-around solid year.
“I’d love to have that year next year. I’d love to be like Luke. He’s just supplied the power and kind of picked me up offensively. I only have three home runs. He has 14. He’s unreal.”