Facing the four-time national champion Titans is a tall enough task on its own.
Yet, the Mustangs committed three errors defensively that allowed Cal State Fullerton to extend innings, and ultimately fell 7-4 in the opener of a three-game Big West Conference series inside Baggett Stadium.
The miscues in the field that have hindered Cal Poly all season — it leads the Big West with 54 errors — allowed the first-place Titans to rally back from an early 4-1 deficit and swing the momentum in their favor heading into the second game of the series at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“I think tonight,” Lee said, “it’s just disappointing not being able to take advantage of a game that we had every opportunity to win.”
The Mustangs fell to 16-20 overall and 6-4 in the Big West. Cal State Fullerton improved to 24-12 and 6-1 against conference opponents.
How it happened
Cal Poly erupted offensively in the third inning, batting through the order to build a 4-1 lead against Cal State Fullerton starter Connor Seabold.
Catcher Nick Meyer, left fielder Josh George, right fielder Colby Barrick and designated hitter Elijah Skipps each tallied RBI singles during the scoring outburst.
The Titans answered right back with two runs in the fourth, taking advantage of two throwing errors by the Mustangs to pull within 4-3. They would take the lead for good with two more runs in the seventh, and added a pair of insurance runs in the ninth.
Cal Poly out-hit the Titans, 12-10, including a 4-for-5 performance from freshman third baseman Bradlee Beesley. Barrick also turned in one of his better outings in recent weeks, going 3-for-4 with one RBI.
“We did a real good job offensively,” Lee said. “We came up, created some opportunities first couple innings, didn’t cash in and we cashed in in the third. But you would have obviously liked to create more opportunities in other innings.”
Friday night starters
Junior right-hander Erich Uelmen (2-6) pitched well but was plagued by errors behind him. Uelmen scattered seven hits over 6 1/3 innings, and three of the five runs he allowed were unearned. He struck out six and walked three.
Seabold (5-4) kept the Mustangs largely in check, save for the four-run third inning. He pitched seven innings and gave up 11 hits with six strikeouts and one walk before turning the ball over to reliever Blake Workman in the eighth.
Closer Brett Conine came on in the ninth to earn his eighth save of the season, the second-most in the Big West.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday back inside Baggett Stadium.
Sophomore right-hander Spencer Howard (2-1, 1.79 ERA) is expected to start on the mound for Cal Poly, and the Titans will counter with 6-foot-6, 250-pound junior lefty John Gavin (5-0, 2.22 ERA).
“We gave them that game,” Lee said. “So, we have to come out and bounce back and put forward a better performance, especially from a defensive end.”