The Cal Poly baseball team knows it’s set with Mason Radeke on Friday nights.
Now the task is backing up the Mustangs ace with victories on Saturday and Sunday.
Radeke (5-1) mastered Cal State Northridge for seven scoreless innings in a 7-3 victory at Baggett Stadium, pushing Cal Poly’s record to 3-0 in Big West Conference series openers.
“He just knows how to pitch,” Mustangs head coach Larry Lee said. “He competes, he has an idea of what he wants to do, and in all three of our conference series, he’s set the tone on Friday night.”
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Striking out seven and allowing only two hits and two walks, Radeke could also breathe easy pitching behind an offensive attack that seems to be finding its comfort zone.
Cal Poly (13-16, 4-3 Big West) had 10 or more hits for only the third time in the past 15 games as the Mustangs struck for three-run rallies against the Matadors (17-17, 0-4 Big West) in the fourth and fifth innings.
D.J. Gentile, J.J. Thompson and Elliot Stewart each went 2 for 4 with Stewart driving in a pair of runs. In all, six different Cal Poly players scored.
The Mustangs came into the game hitting .255 as a team, but after a 7-2 victory over Santa Clara on Tuesday, there was some sense that the team has developed a working strategy through half a season with the composite bats that have hurt power numbers across the nation in college baseball.
“For the most part, I think everyone’s got whatever it is that they’re working on pretty dialed in,” said Thompson, who has seen his average rise from .158 to .333 with 10 multihit games in his past 18 starts.
“We’re just trying to hit the pitches that we get. If we’re sitting on a certain pitch or our approach is to hit a fastball away, if we get a fastball away, then we’re putting a good swing on the ball.
“One of the biggest things, especially these last two games, is everyone’s been at the plate really composed. Even if they’re strikes, we’re not too worried about taking the pitch, and when we do get a pitch to hit, we hit it pretty good.”
Cal Poly got its first run of the game in the bottom of the third, when Gentile bounced a single high up the middle to score Jimmy Allen.
The opportunity came courtesy of a fielding error by Cal State Northridge shortstop Matthew Telesco with two outs in the previous at-bat.
Two more errors in the fourth melded with four Mustangs hits to give Cal Poly a cushion, and RBI doubles by Thompson and Stewart and a run-scoring opposite-field single by Allen drove in three more in the fifth.
Said Radeke: “It’s more of a scrappy approach, kind of get a couple runs, get guys on, and today, it was great they went out there and scored.
“No one’s really going for the home run and trying to be the hero. Everyone’s just doing their part, everyone’s starting to figure out their role and it’s nice.”
Radeke lowered his ERA to 2.48. In 58 innings, the junior has allowed only 16 earned runs and has struck out a team-high 67 batters.
The two hits against him were first-inning and fifth-inning singles.
In his only spot of trouble, a second-inning jam with a man on second and a 3-0 count to Telesco, Radeke came back to strike out the Matadors shortstop to end the threat.
“After the first inning, he gets really confident,” said Thompson, “especially if the first three guys he sees he just blows them away or he just completely deals in the first inning. He’s got so much swagger.
“He’s not scared to throw certain pitches in certain counts, and just goes right after them. As a hitter, that’s tough to adjust to, a guy who just comes at you, even when you have the upper hand.”
Freshman reliever Taylor Chris came on to allow all three Cal State Northridge runs in the eighth, but senior Frankie Reed got the final out of the eighth and struck out the side in the ninth to seal the win.
Cal Poly’s Steven Fischback (2-2, 4.97 ERA) will oppose the Matadors’ Josh Goossen-Brown (4-0, 2.18 ERA) today at 6 p.m. in the second game of the series.