In glimpses over the past two years, Mason Radeke has shown the potential to one day be a definite No. 1 pitcher for the Cal Poly baseball team.
Now a junior who’s feeling fully healthy for the first time in a while, Radeke looked the part Friday night.
The right-hander struck out 14 batters through seven innings in an 8-3 win over Valparaiso at Baggett Stadium, tying Cal Poly’s single-game Division I record for strikeouts.
“Can’t ask for anything better than that,” Radeke said. “It’s the most strikeouts I’ve ever gotten.”
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His previous career-high was eight. Radeke matched the record in the top of the seventh inning. After the Mustangs scored four runs in the bottom of the inning for an 8-2 lead, he was relieved by Eugene Wright.
“I wanted one more batter,” Radeke laughed when asked of his reaction to learning he had tied the record over a PA announcement. “But I was done. The last pitch of the game was a good one to end on. It felt good. It was a strikeout. I couldn’t ask for better.”
Or, as Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said of pulling him with the rest of the season in mind: “His well-being is much more important.”
Radeke missed nearly the entire final three months of his sophomore year because of an arm injury. Coming out of Santa Barbara High in 2008, Radeke was drafted in the 41st round by the Chicago White Sox. As a true freshman for the Mustangs, he worked his way into the Sunday starter role, going 6-2 with a 5.31 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 761⁄3 innings.
Earmarked as the Friday-night starter since the beginning of this season, Radeke came into this three-game series against the Crusaders with a 6.55 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 11 innings. In one night, he dropped the ERA to 4.50.
Radeke (1-1) allowed five hits, didn’t walk anyone, and gave up just one earned run.
Mike Zirelli also holds the Division I strikeouts record, set against Temple in 1999.
“Mason was good tonight,” Lee said. “He kept his pitch count down through seven innings, had a number of key strikeouts and looked fresh.
“He’s a competitor, and he’s able to get himself out of any jams he might create. That’s what we need from a Friday-night starter.”
Cal Poly (2-6) chased Valparaiso (1-9) starter Damon McCormick in the seventh inning. Mitch Haniger finished 2 for 4 with three RBI for Cal Poly. Bobby Crocker was 3 for 5 with an RBI, and Elliot Stewart blasted a solo home run.
But despite those performances, Lee bemoaned some inconsistency throughout his lineup.
“We didn’t play to our capability and failed to do the little things that are going to make us a better team from an offensive standpoint,” Lee said. “We just had a few too many gaps in our lineup. Not everybody is swinging well at this time, but we’re hoping that little-by-little, we’ll get another one or two guys involved in the mix.”
Cal Poly, which suffered all but two of its losses by one run before winning 11-4 at 21st-ranked and previously unbeaten Fresno State on Tuesday, has 16 of its next 17 games at home.
“Playing at home for the month of March, I’m hoping that’ll help us get in a set routine,” Lee said. “Especially from an offensive standpoint, the more that we can be on the field, the more that we can play, I’m hoping that some of our main guys start feeling comfortable and can get in a groove and that the offense is very contagious.”
Today’s second game is at 6 p.m., with the series finale set for 1 p.m. Sunday.