The past few weeks, the Cal Poly baseball team has been playing as if its entire season was on the line.Today, the Mustangs will find out if it truly was.
Cal Poly finished the regular season on a seven-game win streak, capping it with a 6-0 victory at UC Riverside in Sunday’s finale, and will wait to see if it was enough to earn an at-large berth to an NCAA postseason regional this morning.
The Mustangs (36-20, 16-8 Big West Conference) have won 14 of their past 17 and moved all alone into second place in the Big West when Cal State Fullerton beat Long Beach State 5-1 to secure the outright conference title and the automatic berth that goes along with it.
The NCAA selection show, scheduled to air at 9 a.m. on ESPNU, will reveal the at-large selections to the 64-team tournament. Thirty of the berths are awarded to conference champions, while the other 34 are awarded based on merit. Traditionally, RPI rankings are some of the heaviest weighted criteria, and Cal Poly did not rate well coming into the week.
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The Mustangs entered the series with the Highlanders (22-32, 9-15) ranked 74th out of 297 Division I teams. The previous week, Cal Poly checked in at 85th.
The Big West does have history on its side. The last time the conference sent only one team to an NCAA regional was 1986.
Third-place Long Beach State (28-27, 15-6 Big West) is also hoping for an at-large spot, and the 49ers entered the week with an RPI of 66 before losing two of three to Cal State Fullerton.
If the Mustangs are left out, it would mean they’ve been playing in vain since at least May 15, when the team suffered its last loss of the season, a 6-4 decision to CSU Bakersfield.
Cal Poly could have also sealed its fate with three extra-inning, one-run conference losses. The Mustangs fell to Cal State Northridge 6-5 in 11 innings in a series loss to the Matadors in mid-April.
Cal Poly lost 5-4 in 10 innings in a series loss to the Titans the following weekend, and the Mustangs suffered a 5-4, 11-inning defeat in a series loss to UC Davis on May 4.
Cal Poly blew saves in two of the extra-inning games, and if any two of the three had gone the Mustangs’ way, they would have a better conference record than Cal State Fullerton (34-19, 17-7 Big West).
Even if all the work has been for naught, Cal Poly might have finished the year at its apex.
The Mustangs averaged 8.8 runs per game in their past 10, and the pitching performances have been improving as well. Friday night starter Joey Wagman threw his first career complete game last weekend, Saturday starter Kyle Anderson upped his win total to 10, and freshman Bryan Granger had his best appearance of the season Sunday, pitching six shutout innings against UC Riverside.
Granger scattered five hits and two walks while striking out three to even his record at 1-1 and lower his ERA to 3.60. Freshman Matt Imhof pitched three innings of one-hit scoreless relief for his first save.
At the plate, David Armendariz was 4 for 5 with a home run and four RBI, Nick Torres was 3 for 5 and Chris Hoo and Denver Chavez had two hits apiece for Cal Poly.
As a team, the Mustangs are hitting .297 and sport a staff ERA of 3.48.