If the Cal Poly baseball team is going to build some momentum before the start of Big West Conference play, this weekend’s three-game series against Wichita State could prove to be the potential turning point.
The Mustangs (5-11) have won their past two games, defeating Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga by a combined score of 22-2, and will look to continue that trend when they host the Shockers in the series opener at 6 p.m. Friday inside Baggett Stadium.
Junior right-handed pitcher Erich Uelmen is expected to start on the mound for Cal Poly, while Wichita State (10-6) will counter with fifth-year senior Willie Schwanke.
Saturday’s matchup will feature Templeton High School graduate Spencer Howard, a sophomore right-hander, paired against junior lefty Cody Tyler.
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Facing the Shockers veteran pitching staff could cause the Mustangs some problems.
Cal Poly has been shut out five times this season and has scored the fewest total runs (66) among nine teams in the Big West Conference. One particularly difficult stretch during the 11-game road stint to start the season saw the Mustangs go 25 consecutive scoreless innings.
Cal Poly also has committed a conference-high 27 errors defensively, an issue that appears to have carried over from last season.
Outfielder Alex McKenna has gotten off to strong start to his sophomore campaign. He leads the Mustangs in batting average (.373), runs (11), hits (22) and on-base percentage (.479).
Senior third baseman Michael Sanderson (.310) and junior outfielder Josh George (.306) are both hitting over .300 and have driven in a combined 19 runs.
Wichita State, 9-0 at home and 1-6 on the road this season, leans heavily on sophomore first baseman Greyson Jenista.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Jenista leads the Shockers in most offensive categories, including batting average (.344), hits (21), doubles (five) and on-base percentage (.429).
Jenista was named the Co-Freshman of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference last spring and garnered freshman All-America honors from Baseball America.
As a team, Wichita State is nearly halfway to last year’s win total, when it finished 21-37 overall and tied for fifth place in the MVC.
Series Preview: Cal Poly (5-11) vs. Wichita State (10-6)
Starting pitching matchups
Friday: Erich Uelmen (1-3, 2.05 ERA) vs. Willie Schwanke (2-2, 4.03 ERA)
Saturday: Spencer Howard (0-0, 1.88 ERA) vs. Cody Tyler (2-2, 5.40 ERA)
Sunday: TBA vs. Zach Lewis (0-1, 6.75 ERA)