LOS ANGELES — Attack the strike zone.
That was the theme of the discussion an irate Larry Lee gave Joey Wagman when the Cal Poly head coach came out to counsel his struggling freshman pitcher on the mound three years ago.
The direct quote might be a little too PG-13 for print, Wagman said, but the message was relayed clearly: Attack.
Soon enough, Wagman began to attack everything from conditioning drills to weight training, and the philosophy has helped the senior develop into the Mustangs’ all-time single-season wins leader — the latest coming via Friday’s 9-2 victory over San Diego at the Los Angeles Regional at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium, the first postseason win in Division I program history.
“For me, one of the bigger changes was the work ethic,” said Wagman, who has developed into a two-year Friday night starter by this, his senior season. “One of the biggest things that I saw was actually during my sophomore year one day I viewed conditioning that day as something to do to get me better instead of something I had to do.
“How important the weight room is for me, the conditioning. I’m not the biggest guy, not the hardest-throwing in the world. So, if I can keep as physically fit and strong throughout the season as I can, it’s going to help me a lot.”
Now, the second-seeded Mustangs (40-17) will play top-seeded UCLA at 6 p.m. today in the double-elimination format.
Wagman allowed two runs, one earned, on six hits through eight innings against the Toreros, walking and striking out three apiece. His 13 victories eclipsed former Cal Poly left-hander Garrett Olson, who has had stints in the Major Leagues since winning 12 and being drafted in the supplemental first round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2005.
Wagman outdueled San Diego ace PJ Conlon, who entered the game 9-0 with a 1.65 ERA, and Mustangs freshman designated hitter Brian Mundell upstaged NCAA home run leader Kris Bryant with a homer of his own and four RBI.
Mundell drove a first-inning shot at least five feet over the 395-feet sign in straightaway center field.
It gave Cal Poly a 1-0 lead, and even though San Diego rallied back to tie and eventually take a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, Mundell’s hit broke the ice for a program that had been to just one other regional since moving up from Division II in 1995 and was easily swept 0-2 from the Tempe (Ariz.) Regional in 2009.
Cal Poly is 17-2 this season when scoring in the first inning and 31-5 when scoring first.
“It just kind of relaxed me even more that I got the first hit out of the way,” Mundell said. “Because I had success with the approach that I had in the first at-bat, going in there in the next couple at-bats, I could stick with that.”
Mundell added a sacrifice fly in the fifth and a two-run single in a six-run, sixth-inning rally that put the game away. He finished 2 for 4 with two runs and four RBI.
“He’s a big, strong kid and he wants to get extended,” San Diego coach Rich Hill said.
“We were trying to go fastball low and away, and he just got extended. … We left it up, and he capitalized on it. He’s a great player now, and he’s going to be a great player. You guys up in San Luis Obispo have a lot to look forward to in Brian Mundell.”
Bryant, who leads the nation with 31 home runs, was 0 for 3 with a walk.
His best opportunity came after Wagman allowed two men on to lead off the fifth, but with runners on first and second and no out, Wagman struck out Bryant with an outside fastball and retired the next two batters in order to end the threat.
“The fact that he has four pitches,” Bryant said, “and I wouldn’t necessarily say he was commanding all of them, but he made all of them look like a strike.”
Cal Poly retook the lead on a run-scoring single by Denver Chavez and Mun-dell’s sacrifice fly in the fifth.
Conlon walked in a run in the sixth before being replaced with one out. The Mustangs got another run when Chavez was hit by a pitch, and Mundell followed with a two-run single. Allen capped with rally with an RBI single.
Allen was 4 for 5 with a double and two RBI. It was the first four-hit game of the junior third baseman’s career, and the six-run inning was only the third time Cal Poly has scored as many in a single inning this year, tying the season-high.
“The majority of our games are tight ballgames,” Lee said. “They’re real close, a lot of one-run and two-run ballgames, and now occasionally, we have big innings, but not like tonight. Our main strengths have been starting pitching and bullpen, and that’s what’s allowed us to be in a ballgame late.
Friday “was kind of uncharacteristic of a Cal Poly game this year.”