Don’t believe the hype, this is the real Joey Wagman.
That’s the description you see for the Cal Poly junior pitcher’s Twitter handle, @TheFakeJ_Waggy.
Wagman’s performance in the Mustangs’ season-opening 6-0 victory over Oklahoma State at Baggett Stadium had to have many wondering which J_Waggy they were seeing Friday night.
The Wagman that pitched eight shutout innings, allowing only two hits and no walks while keeping the Cowboys hitless for 72⁄3 — can that be the real Wagman?
After losing two standout starters from last season’s team, the Mustangs need him to keep it real.
“That’s the goal,” Wagman said, “to come out and pitch like that every time, keep my team in the ball game. We’re going to play some close games, and that’s the fun part, to just come out and try to keep my team in the ballgame.
“I don’t think you ever expect to come out, throw eight innings, two hits the first game of the season, but I felt confident coming in, I’ve worked hard and I knew I was ready.”
Including a three-game sweep on the road last season, the victory was Cal Poly’s first in five games against Oklahoma State, which is in town for a three-game series that continues tonight at 6 and wraps up Sunday at 1 p.m.
The win also ends a five-year streak of season-opening losses for Mustangs head coach Larry Lee, who won his first four season-openers after taking over his hometown team.
Even with a heralded group of pitchers, three of which were drafted, Cal Poly started 0-6 last season. Mixing a fastball-change-curve combo, Wagman was able to keep Oklahoma State off balance and deliver a welcome win.
“If he throws strikes, he’s really good because he’s a three-pitch mix guy,” Lee said, “and at any level, if you can mix three pitches for strikes and not give any free passes, you’re probably going to have a lot of success.
“He was in trouble once and he gets out of that. He didn’t put himself in very many bad situations, pitched to contact and was aggressive with his fastball.”
Junior centerfielder Mitch Haniger was 2 for 3 with a run, driving in the first run on a one-out single to left field against Cowboys ace lefty Andrew Heaney in the third. Cal Poly added another run on a passed ball moments later.
True freshman right fielder Nick Torres was 2 for 4, fellow freshman Ryan Drobney had two RBI, and sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen had a two-run double as the Mustangs scored four insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Vying for the closer spot, sophomore Chase Johnson struck out the top of the order in a 1-2-3 ninth.
Prior to the four-run rally, and despite Wagman’s dominance, it was still a tight game.
Thoughts of a victory overshadowed the no-hit bid, the right-hander said.
“I guess it’s kind of in the back of my mind, but at the same time, it was a 2-nothing ballgame. That was really my main focus, and I tried to not to think about it.”
At a certain point, the rest of the team began to realize what was happening.
“I knew Wagman was pitching great, but I didn’t really even notice it until the sixth inning,” Haniger said. “I looked up at the scoreboard and I just laughed to myself. I said, “Wow, I didn’t even notice it.”
The effort to preserve the no-hitter may have been helped by a bitter cold that chilled the batter’s box, but the pea soup fog that rolled in and out didn’t help the outfielder track incoming fly balls.
It hardly mattered to Wagman. Oklahoma State only got three runners on the entire game and only one advanced past first base.
The no-hitter was broken up by a two-out single by Cowboys third baseman Mark Ginther on a 1-2 count in the seventh.
Oklahoma State shortstop Hunter Bailey doubled to the corner in right field with two out in the eighth, placing Wagman in his only jam of the game.
Wagman got Cowboys first baseman Robbie Rea to ground out to Mike Miller at shortstop to end the threat.
It wasn’t the only clutch play by Miller. The senior also made a startling snag on a ball up the middle to throw out Bailey leading off the sixth. Junior second baseman Evan Busby made a similarly athletic defensive play to the middle to lead off the seventh.
“It was unbelievable,” Wagman said of Miller’s play. “It was chopper over my head, and I put my head down. I thought 100 percent it was a hit. And I look back and see Miller completely stretched out, and he spins and throws to first and gets the guy.
“We played phenomenal defense tonight.”