The Cal Poly baseball team needed to be perfect in its final weekend of the season against against Big West-leading UC Santa Barbara in its bid to catch the Gauchos, win the conference on a tiebreaker and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 2014.
For two out of three games, they were.
On Saturday, however, the Mustangs (28-28, 17-7) dropped the third game of the must-sweep series 7-0 to UCSB (45-9, 19-5) at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium, and instead of celebrating an unlikely trip to the tournament, their season came to an end on the final day.
After winning 3-0 on Thursday and 4-3 on Friday, the mistakes came fast and early for the Mustangs, as Cal Poly had three errors through the fifth inning. UC Santa Barbara took full advantage of the mistakes — and the extra bases given to them.
In the first inning, Cal Poly center fielder Bradlee Beesley, normally sure-handed, allowed a routine single by Andrew Martinez to hit off the heel of his glove and go behind him. Gaucho shortstop McClain O’Connor, who was running hard on the play, scored from first.
In the third, nearly the same thing happened to Beesley again on an Armani Smith single with two outs. This time, the ball missed the glove completely and went through his legs. Martinez, who walked earlier in the inning, scored from first, and Smith advanced to second.
The final error occurred when Tommy Jew, who entered the game with the second-most stolen bases in the Big West (19) behind teammate Tevin Mitchell (20), attempted to steal second. Cal Poly catcher Myles Emmerson’s throw sailed inside to the right side of the base and into center field, allowing Jew to reach third with two outs.
Ultimately, that error didn’t hurt the Mustangs, but it was a day full of those kind of plays with the Gauchos building a lead while freshman pitcher Rodney Boone (8-0) scattered five hits over eight innings to go with 12 strikeouts and three walks.
The Mustangs’ five hits were each from different players, and Cal Poly stranded eight men on base.
Chase Watkins (0-3) started the game for Cal Poly, but was pulled after 2 1/3 innings. Watkins allowed four hits and two runs, one earned.
Clark relieved Watkins and allowed five hits and five runs — four earned — along with three walks over 3 2/3 innings. He recorded three strikeouts. Ryan Jameson pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing one hit, and senior Jared Zill pitched 2/3 of an inning to finish out the game after an injury-filled season.
Mitchell finished the scoring for UCSB when he hit a solo home run in sixth inning off Cal Poly reliever Michael Clark.
It is the Mustangs third second-place Big West finish in as many years.