Catcher Chris Hoo caught a runner stealing, and then did it again.
Game after game, he’s shown his teammates what he can do. And while he hasn’t had the best year at the plate, the sophomore is proving to his teammates that he can be the team’s starting catcher, one big defensive play at a time.
Hoo went 1 for 3 with an RBI to go along with a couple of key defensive plays as the Cal Poly baseball team (25-17, 9-6 Big West) closed a series sweep over the Tigers with a 6-4 win at Baggett Stadium on Sunday.
“He’s been unbelievable behind the plate,” outfielder Mitch Haniger said. “It’s funny because every time someone tries to run, I feel like there’s no one who’s been able to steal on him. So it’s just been great for our pitching and defense knowing that if anyone tries to run on us, they are going to get thrown out.”
That’s not entirely true, but the defensive standout did come into the weekend leading the Big West in runners caught stealing (15) and tied for first in runners picked off (4). He continued that success against Pacific, and has now thrown out 17 of 39 runners this season.
“He is one of the better defensive catchers on the West Coast,” head coach Larry Lee said. “He’s a great receiver, tremendous blocker and a very accurate thrower.”
Accurate thrower, indeed. He proved that in the second inning, when he caught Pacific’s Taylor Murphy at second to end the inning. In the seventh, he caught Jason Taasaas napping at first base for an out on a pickoff throw, and then caught Tyler Sullivan stealing for the second out of the inning.
“I am just trying to do my best out there, trying to help the team,” Hoo said. “Defense is more my strongpoint. I am not like Mitch (Haniger) or (Mike) Miller, one of those guys hitting. So I kind of focus more on defense.”
Against Pacific, Hoo did step up at the plate. With the score tied at 3-3, he hit a soft line drive out of reach of Pacific’s Josh Simms to bring home Jimmy Allen and put the Mustangs ahead by one.
From there, the Mustangs added a run in the seventh — an RBI from Allen on a fielder’s choice — and a run in the eighth — an unearned run scored by Hoo on an error at shortstop — to secure the victory.
“It was a grind; we didn’t play too well,” Lee said. “We had a couple of opportunities early and didn’t cash in.
“Sometimes you have to win ugly, and that’s basically what we did today.”
The Mustangs combined for nine hits, and left nine runners on base. They got big contributions at the plate from Haniger, who went 1 for 3 and brought home the Mustangs first run on an RBI double to left- center, and Mike Miller, who went 2 for 3 with a towering two-run home run to left in the fifth.
“Miller’s two-run home run putting us up by one kinda gave us a little lift, but we have a tendency to give it back,” Lee said. “But that’s OK, I felt we were strong out of the bullpen today.”
Three pitchers came on in relief of starter Kyle Brueggemann, who pitched four innings and gave up two runs on six hits. Matt Imhof pitched 1 1⁄3 innings, allowing one run with three strikeouts, while Chase Johnson pitched 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings.
Reed Reilly then closed the game, pitching two innings, allowing one run and two hits for his first save of the year.