For the second night in a row, the Cal Poly baseball team failed to save a victory for one of its starters.
Unlike Friday, however, when the Mustangs took an extra-inning win over UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly lost the lead late and never got it back in a 10-9 loss to the visiting Gauchos (13-12, 1-1 Big West Conference) on Saturday.
The Mustangs (9-20, 2-3 Big West) squandered a tie-breaking two-run home run in the fifth inning by Bobby Crocker, who ended up a single away from the cycle, and left DJ Mauldin with a no-decision after he fought back following a disastrous first inning.
Crocker was 3 for 5 with four RBI and two runs. His RBI triple in the second inning tied the score at 7 and gave Mauldin a clean slate to work with.
Mauldin put the Mustangs in an early hole after giving up six runs on six hits in the first. With coaches imploring him to pitch deep into the game, Mauldin came close to allowing a couple more rallies but gave up just one more run over the next 52⁄3 innings.
He struck out just one but walked only three and allowed just four hits after the first.
“He did what he needed to do, just put the past behind him and allowed us to chip away,” Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said. “We chipped away a lot earlier than expected, and we got back in the ball game.”
Mauldin left with a 9-7 lead and two outs in the seventh, similar to the way Matt Leonard left with a 3-2 lead at the exact same stage of the game Friday.
On Friday, Jeff Johnson gave up the tying run in the ninth, but the Mustangs won it in the 10th. Saturday’s game never went to extra innings.
Cal Poly reliever Mark DeVincenzi walked four batters in 21⁄3 innings, setting himself up for two run-scoring singles by the Gauchos.
UC Santa Barbara got two against DeVincenzi with a bases-loaded single by Matt Valaika in the eighth, and Sean Williams had a single to center to score the winning run from second in the ninth.
It as the second straight blown save for DeVincenzi (0-2), who had a similar episode in last week’s series at UC Riverside.
“A lot of guys aren’t playing to win,” Lee said. “We’re just very tentative, making bad judgements, bad mistakes on defense. At one time we were a good defensive team, and now we’re not.”
The Mustangs looked like a good offensive team for half the game, too.
Cal Poly racked up 11 hits and nine runs, six earned, through five innings against UC Santa Barbara starter Nick Capito.
But when reliever Greg Davis (1-0) entered in the sixth, the Mustangs offense went cold.
Davis had pitched only eight innings all season coming into the game. He limited Cal Poly to just one hit through four shutout innings and struck out five, including the final four Mustangs batters.
“He was good,” Lee said. “He had limited innings. I’m not sure why, but he had a very good down-plane fastball. When we had a two-run lead, we wanted to make sure we didn’t give that up, and obviously we did.”
Since Mauldin rebounded to go deep into the game, the bullpen was not stretched to the limit, and Eugene Wright, previously only used in a relief role, will be able to make his first start of the season in today’s series finale in place of Mason Radeke.
Radeke has missed three starts since elbow soreness forced him out of the rotation in mid-March.
He’s been joined recently on the injury list by catcher Ross Brayton, who did not start Saturday with a knee injury but ended the game in the on-deck circle, and freshman outfielder Mitch Haniger.
Haniger leads Cal Poly with a .337 batting average but left after the first inning of Friday’s game with a back injury and missed all of Saturday’s as well.
Lee said neither is likely to be ready to return today.
“That’s just reality,” Lee said about the injuries, “We needed to make sure Mauldin could go deep in the ball game and not use Wright. Now we have a chance to win the series (today).”
First pitch for today’s series finale has been moved up to 11 a.m.