Logging overtime at the end of a long work week, J.J. Thompson was dragging a little as he made his way to the time clock.
The Cal Poly shortstop scored all the way from first base on a fielding error by Long Beach State shortstop Devin Lohman to give the Mustangs a 16-15 walk-off win in the bottom of the 11th inning Sunday.
Visibly decelerating as he rounded third, Thompson had enough juice to beat the throw to the plate, and his teammates had more than enough energy after a 4 hour, 45-minute game to mob him from the dugout and dogpile in front of the backstop.
“It was probably the most tired I’ve been all year, but I was going for the win,” Thompson said. “It felt good. I’d do it any day. I just turned it into gear, and even though I was maybe going 5 miles an hour, it got it done.”
It was the end of a back-and-forth game that saw Cal Poly (12-27, 5-10 Big West Conference) blow a two-run lead in the ninth inning. The 49ers scored two runs each in the ninth, 10th and 11th, but in the final two, the Mustangs responded.
“It’s good to go through a game like this,” Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said, “so that you know at home, you still have your last at-bats and whatever happens in the top of the inning, you keep your head up and know they have to close out the last three outs to close out the ball game.”
Thompson was a double away from hitting for the cycle, Adam Melker and Luke Yoder each homered for the Mustangs and Cal Poly broke one of its most unflattering streaks by extending one of its most laudatory.
The Mustangs had lost 10 straight weekend series dating back to last season and hadn’t won a three-game set since taking two at Long Beach State last May. Sunday’s win, coupled with a victory on Saturday, clinched the first weekend series victory of the season.
It also kept alive Cal Poly’s immaculate streak of victories in extra-inning games. The Mustangs are 3-0 this season and 9-0 dating back to 2009.
If not for an overthrown ball that landed in the Cal Poly dugout and led to an unearned run in the 10th inning and the error by Lohman — a former Righetti High standout — to end the game, that winning streak might have been doomed.
“It was long, but the situation we’re in, we’ll do anything to get a win,” Melker said. “Everybody was into it, and it proved a good way to go about it.
“We’ll take those extra-inning wins all day. I didn’t know about the streak, but that’s cool.”
Prior to the series, the Mustangs had lost 21 of the past 25 games and hadn’t won back-to-back games since March 10.
Since then, the only thing piling up as much as the losses for the Mustangs were injuries. On Sunday, the team was without five injured position players, including starters Matt Jensen, D.J. Gentile and Evan Busby, and hasn’t had two of its best pitchers for most of the season.
Those injuries gave opportunities to unheralded players. Denver Chavez got his first action in two years and hit .400 for the series filling in for Jensen at second base, and Jordan Hadlock got his first playing time at third base since he was in high school.
“A lot of things haven’t gone our way, injuries and whatnot,” Thompson said, “but this team is tough, man. We’re going to battle all the way to the end, and today I think we showed that for the most part.
“After the win yesterday, we were like, ‘We gotta win a series,’ and we just came out here and gave it our all. It’s tough to play when you’re not in contention for the league, but it just comes down to the fact that we have pride, and we’re tough.”
MEN’S TENNIS: BIG WEST TOURNAMENT FINALUC Irvine 4, Cal Poly 0The top-seeded Mustangs will have to wait another year for another chance to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance in Division I program history after being swept by the Anteaters (17-11) in the Big West Tournament championship match at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Cal Poly (9-14) overcame an 0-7 start to the season to win the regular-season Big West title, but had a hard time recovering from a 4-3 win over UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals Saturday.
“Obviously we’re very disappointed,” Mustangs head coach Justin McGrath said, “but I’m still proud of our guys and what they accomplished this season and they turnaround they made.
“I do think that the match with Santa Barbara took a lot out of our guys. It was a marathon, and the scores probably reflect that.”
COLLEGE BASEBALLCuesta learns playoff opponentCuesta College will host Southwestern in a single-elimination playoff game at 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The winner advances to a three-game series against No. 1 seed Santa Ana beginning Friday.