For the third consecutive game to start the season, the Cal Poly baseball team got a solid outing from its starting pitcher.
Yet, for the second time, the Mustangs found themselves on the losing end, dropping a 9-4 decision to USC on Sunday at Baggett Stadium.
Sophomore lefty Kyle Anderson, in his first weekend start at Cal Poly (1-2), gave up four runs in 7 1⁄3 innings, retiring 11 in a row at one point.
But it was Anderson’s last pitch that he will remember most.
With his team trailing 3-2 in the eighth, designated hitter Cade Kreuter, son of USC head coach and former major leaguer Chad Kreuter, sent a fastball over the left field wall to give the Trojans (2-1) a one-run lead.
“I’m not overpowering so it’s really important that I put the ball where I need to,” Anderson said. “It was just one pitch where I didn’t hit my location. It was supposed to be a fastball away and I left it out over the plate a little.”
Cal Poly rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the eighth. Matt Jensen reached on an error and scored two batters later on a two-out, pinch-hit single by Elliot Stewart.
The Mustangs scored three of their four runs on two-out hits, a trend head coach Larry Lee said is crucial to the team’s success.
“We’re trying to win pitches and really simplify the game into that and when you get to two outs or two strikes the good ones are able to raise their level of focus,” Lee said. “You’ll see it through the course of the season — which guys are able to consistently step up in that situation.”
After Ricky Oropesa hit a no-doubt home run to dead center to lead off the ninth to give the Trojans a 5-4 lead, and the next batter roped a single to left, Cal Poly finally saw the anticipated mound debut of Jensen.
Jensen, an accomplished high school pitcher, is better known to Cal Poly followers as the second baseman who earned freshman all-American accolades last season after a near-program record 23-game hitting streak.
After getting the initial out, Jensen looked a little erratic, walking a batter on four pitches and hitting another.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Jensen induced USC’s Joe De Pinto into a groundball that was snagged on a diving stop by Evan Busby, who had just been moved to third base in that half inning. Busby’s throw was up the line and first baseman Ross Brayton couldn’t make the pick.
All three runners came around to score, putting the game out of reach. De Pinto was credited with an RBI single while Busby was given a throwing error that resulted in two runs scoring.
Despite it being an extremely tough play, Lee said he would rather have his team risk a bad throw than concede a run in that case.
“You expect to make great plays and the first half of that play was a great diving stop,” Lee said. “We just came up a little bit short. Sometimes you get the pick and sometimes you don’t. You always have to be aggressive and you don’t play to lose. You play to win.”