Brian Mundell launched a missile over the center field fence. Nick Torres rocketed a shot of his own out of Baggett Stadium just an inning later.
But as monstrous as the two home runs were for the Cal Poly baseball team in Friday night’s 7-0 nonconference victor y over UC Santa Barbara, none seemed as powerful as the cannon that shot pitcher Joey Wagman back into the dugout after a bases-loaded double play to end the seventh inning.
Already the Big West Conference strikeout leader coming into the game, Wagman struck out 11 and had a no-hitter going into the seventh to lower his season ERA to 2.70 and improve to 5-1.
But after that no-hitter was lost, and the Gauchos (11-9) loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, the 4-0 lead Mustangs’ (16-4) didn’t seem so secure.
Then UCSB catcher Jackson Morrow hit a nubber in front of the plate that looked like it might score a run. Wagman fielded the ball, quickly flipped it to catcher Chris Hoo, and Hoo fired it to first to get Morrow and end the inning.
Wagman blasted toward the dugout like a bottle rocket, going airborne as he crossed the third-base line and was on the bench before any of his teammates had time to leave the infield.
“Plenty of guys in the dugout told me I got up there a little bit,” Wagman said of his hearty leap.
“I didn’t think we were going to get him, and I saw where the runner was and we got the double play. It fired me up a lot, and we got out of the inning.
“It was just out of excitement and part of the moment.”
It was the crowning moment in a feel-good bounceback game for No. 25 Cal Poly, which lost its first series of the season dropping two of three games to visiting Notre Dame last weekend .
The Mustangs remain on a mission to prove their early season success was not fool’s gold.
“For us to come out here and put up some runs,” Torres said, “it just shows that nobody’s going to take away our confidence.”
A sophomore right-fielder, Torres had his first career 4-for-4 game, knocking in two with a two-run home run in the third and hitting his sixth double of the season.
Mundell, a freshman designated hitter and reigning Big West Player of the Week, was 1 for 4 but creamed the first pitch he saw, sending it over the 405-foot sign on the center field wall for a two-run lead in the second inning.
Senior second baseman Denver Chavez was 2 for 3 with two runs to up his team-leading batting average to .372, and Jordan Ellis was 2 for 2 with a walk.
Torres also pushed his career-long hitting streak to 14 games. He reached on hard-hit grounder that toed the line between a hit and an error in the second inning, but left no doubt with his home run to left in the third.
“The reason it’s stayed alive is because I haven’t thought about the hit streak at all,” Torres said. “If I was thinking about that, I’d probably press in a lot of my atbats.”
Third baseman Jimmy Allen saw an eight game hit streak end with a 0-for-4 night at the plate.
Wagman continued a torrid tear for Mustangs pitchers, who lead the Big West with 186 strikeouts as a staff.
Star ting with a careerbest 12-strikeout performance in a 6-2 win over the Fighting Irish last week, Cal Poly pitchers have 49 strikeouts in the past four games.
Wagman had nine in just four innings against the Gauchos. He ended up walking five and giving up another free pass on a bean ball but did not allow a hit until the seventh, when Woody Woodward broke up the no-hitter with a hit-andrun single through the left side.
Cameron Newell singled through the right side to load the bases before the double play.
Wagman came out to the mound for the eighth inning, but left after walking the first two hitters, and closer Reed Reilly came on to retire the side.
But the team still fed off Wagman’s steady outing.
“It’s good to see that he’s feeling it again, to know that he’s got a lot of confidence out on the mound,” Torres said, “because when he’s confident, we’re going to be confident.”