Its first Division I sweep of Cal State Fullerton came over the weekend, and Monday brought an even bigger historical first for the Cal Poly baseball team.
At least according to one major poll, the Mustangs are the No. 1 team in the nation.
Collegiate Baseball slotted Cal Poly at the top of its weekly rankings, while polls conducted by Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association ranked the Mustangs second. The Perfect Game and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll placed them third.
“My first initial thought was ‘Great,’ ” head coach Larry Lee said at his weekly news conference. “My second initial thought was, make sure our players don’t buy into the hype and make sure they continue to be focused on the next game.”
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It’s Cal Poly’s first national No. 1 ranking since moving all its sports to the Division I level for the 1994-95 school year. The women’s volleyball team achieved a top ranking in 1985, when the rest of the school competed in Division II.
Virginia (33-7) is ranked No. 1 in each of the other polls.
The Mustangs (34-5, 11-1), winners of 10 straight and leaders of the Big West Conference, host San Jose State (12-28) tonight before heading to Long Beach State for a three-game series Friday.
“We try to stay focused no matter what day it is — no matter what team we’re playing,” said sophomore Mark Mathias, who was named Big West Player of the Week after collecting 11 hits in 20 at-bats as part of a 4-0 week for Cal Poly.
In his first year as the starter at second base, Mathias is hitting .404 — 12th best in the nation — and his .465 on-base percentage and team-best 11 stolen bases from the leadoff spot in the lineup have given the Mustangs instant offensive power from the start.
“As soon as we moved him to the leadoff spot, he’s kind of ignited us and allowed us to have the opportunity to score early in the ballgame, which we weren’t that great at doing in the beginning,” Lee said. “He’s been dialed in since day one, but he had just hit at different parts of the lineup.”
Lee said approaching every game and every opponent with importance has helped cultivate a consistent winning mentality.
“They’ve bought into everything we’ve been talking about, and not all teams are able to do that,” he said. “It’s a great quality for a team to have that every game is important. … For the most part, they’ve come to play in every game from the very first pitch.”