There are a couple of reasons why Joey Wagman hadn’t pitched a complete game at the college or high school levels before Friday night’s 5-1 victory over UC Santa Barbara.
In the five previous occasions Wagman pitched through the eighth inning for the Cal Poly baseball team this season, head coach Larry Lee sat him down for the ninth and let a reliever finish off the games, two of which were combined shutouts. That explains college.
But at Danville’s Monte Vista High, Wagman played centerfield for a school with an all-star team’s worth of arms that signed Division I letters of intent.
“We had six guys my senior year go D-1 and you don’t see that too much on a high school team,” Wagman said. “There’s not too many innings to go around when we have that much talent.”
Included in the bunch were three future Pac-12 pitchers — Stanford’s Mark Appel, Oregon’s Christian Jones and Washington’s Steven Swift — and San Jose State’s Drew Bradshaw.
Wagman pitched only 101⁄3 innings his senior season and totaled only 16 1⁄3 innings his entire high school varsity career, which only makes his rise to become Cal Poly’s ace that much more impressive.
Wagman improved his season record to 8-3 by limiting the visiting Gauchos (24-25, 10-12 Big West Conference) to one run on only five hits and three walks Friday. Only an eighth-inning RBI single that seemed to confuse the infield of Cal Poly (31-20, 11-8 Big West) kept it from being Wagman’s first shutout.
UC Santa Barbara’s Brett Vertigan hit a ball up the middle that Mustangs shortstop Mike Miller slung to second for the force out, but Denver Chavez was not fully to the bag, and Luke Swensen scored on the play.
Wagman still lowered his season ERA to 2.42, and though he only struck out three after tying a career high with 10 strikeouts in last week’s Friday night victory over visiting Cal State Bakersfield, it only took 115 pitches to complete the game.
The junior has thrown 1001⁄3 innings this season, a projection few might have made by looking at his high school statistics.
For Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee, Wagman is a major scouting success story.
“I made one final trip to see him, and he was low 80s,” Lee said of Wagman’s high school throwing velocity, “but he had a good 12-6 breaking ball, and I said that’s good enough. You count on him developing arm strength, and that’s exactly what he’s done.”
What no one could account for was Wagman’s tenacity as a competitor. He might have pitched through the eighth inning five times before Friday without once coming to the mound for the ninth, but he did not leave happily.
“What separates him is his makeup,” Lee said, “He’s got that competitive spirit. He wants to be out there. He wants to finish every game.”
This time, he did.
“I feel like he’s had good chances to do it, and obviously, some other people came into the game in the ninth,” Mustangs third baseman Jimmy Allen said. “He deserved it. He worked hard. He deserves all the credit.”
Allen deserves some, too. The sophomore was 2 for 3 at the plate with two runs and two RBI, accounting for most of the evening’s offense.
Allen hit a sacrifice fly to score Cal Poly’s first run in the top of the first. He tripled in the fourth and scored on a sacrifice bunt by David Armendariz to give the Mustangs a 3-0 lead.
Armendariz finished 1 for 1 with a solo home run in the second, and Tim Wise was 2 for 4.
Allen’s double in the sixth drove in Mitch Haniger, and Cal Poly scored its final run when Allen came around to score from second on back-to-back wild pitches.
Though overshadowed by Big West home run and RBI leader Mitch Haniger in the No. 3 spot in the order, Allen ranks second in the conference in RBI batting right behind him.
Haniger has driven in 54 runs this season. Allen has knocked in 39, and he leads the team with a .377 batting average with runners in scoring position.
“He’s made four errors at third base playing phenomenal defense,” Wagman said. “We’d love to have Mitch up there in any situation along with Mike Miller, but Jimmy, he’s definitely the next guy in line. He’s been one of our most clutch players all year.”