The Mustangs were shut out for the sixth time in 19 games this season, and saw their four-game winning streak come to an end as the Shockers avoided a third straight loss to end the series.
“We didn’t take care of business today,” head coach Larry Lee said. “I mean, when you have an opportunity to sweep a quality team, that’s what you need to set out to do. We just didn’t take care of business.”
A relatively flat ending to the series didn’t overshadow some improved play in several areas for a Cal Poly team that was 3-11 nine days ago.
The Mustangs (7-12) received three quality outings from the starting pitching rotation of junior Erich Uelmen and sophomores Spencer Howard and Cam Schneider.
Junior outfielder Colby Barrick also wrapped up a strong weekend offensively with his third consecutive multi-hit game. The transfer from Allan Hancock College tallied two singles Sunday to finish the weekend 7-for-11 with a double and two RBI.
“If we can scratch a couple (runs) for a guy like Uelmen or Howard or pretty much anyone on our staff,” Barrick said, “… we’re pretty much set because we have a lot of trust in those guys that they’re going to do their job.”
Wichita State (11-8) broke the scoreless tie with one run in the fourth inning and added another in the fifth when Bryant Klusener hit an RBI double down the left field line — his first hit of the season — to give the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
Shockers’ starting pitcher Zach Lewis made the lead stand up and turned in his best statistical outing of the season. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior limited the Mustangs to four hits over seven scoreless innings, to go with six strikeouts and two walks.
Schneider delivered an equally impressive performance, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits over seven innings. He struck out five and walked one before turning the ball over to the Mustangs’ bullpen to start the eighth.
“Schneider was great,” Lee said. “Threw a lot of strikes.”
The 6-7, 245-pound Schneider could be a key piece of the puzzle for the Mustangs moving forward.
Lee confirmed Sunday that junior right-hander Jarred Zill — who was expected to be the No. 2 starter this spring — will be out for the year after undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on Saturday.
Sophomore Bobby Ay also was unavailable this weekend with muscle tightness in his arm, Lee said, but he is expected to return when the Cornhuskers visit Baggett Stadium for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.
“Pitching-wise, over the course of the week we were great,” Lee said. “We had 31 innings, three walks and 40 strikeouts.”
Uelmen set the tone with a 10-strikeout, 1-walk performance during Friday’s opener, a 5-4 victory in 13 innings. Howard followed with a career-high 11 strikeouts and one walk in Saturday’s 3-0 win, and Schneider carried that momentum into the series finale.
More of the same will be needed against Nebraska (9-8).
The Cornhuskers have won four straight games and seven of their last nine overall. That series will mark the end of Cal Poly’s 12-game homestand, with a trip to UC Irvine scheduled for March 31 to open Big West Conference play.
“Overall we played much better over the last week,” Lee said. “We’re going in the right direction. But a loss like today, it’s a big shift in just trying to get back up to .500.”