The past few weeks haven’t exactly been easy for Cal Poly’s Kyle Smith, but the sophomore pitcher put those troubles to the side Thursday night.
Smith struck out a career-high 10 batters and combined with reliever Justin Calomeni on a three-hitter, leading the Mustangs to a 2-1 victory against UC Davis in a Big West Conference matchup inside Baggett Stadium.
Less than two weeks removed from serving a three-game suspension for violating team rules, Smith turned in one of his best outings of the season.
He overcame a shaky relief appearance against CSU Bakersfield and a Big West loss at UC Riverside last Friday to give the home crowd one more exciting performance.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“It’s good for him to finish off the year on a positive note,” head coach Larry Lee said, “and hopefully that’ll carry over into next year.”
How it happened:
Smith (6-6) was dialed in early and held the visiting Aggies to one hit through the first five innings. The sophomore left-hander retired 10 straight batters from second through fourth innings, providing Cal Poly’s offense extra time to get going.
“The last two weeks have been a little struggle for me,” Smith said. “It was good to end on a positive note and take what I’ve learned through those past weeks.”
The Mustangs (31-24, 11-11 Big West) eventually got to UC Davis starter Robert Garcia in the sixth inning.
Junior first baseman Brett Barbier hit an RBI triple through the gap in left centerfield, driving in freshman catcher Nick Meyer to tie the score at 1-1.
Senior right fielder John Schuknecht followed with an RBI single to shallow right field — his Big West-leading 45th RBI this season — to give the Mustangs their first lead of the game.
Aggies catcher Logan Denholm helped to minimize the damage when he threw out Alex McKenna and Schuknecht attempting to steal second base.
Who stood out:
Smith scattered three hits over 7 1/3 innings, struck out 10 and walked two, both free passes coming against two of the final three batters he faced. He was pulled with one out in the seventh and runners on first and second.
Calomeni came on and recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat. He retired UC Davis in order to end the ninth, including consecutive strikeouts to send the Aggies (16-35, 4-18 Big West) to their eighth consecutive loss.
“Calomeni was electric,” Lee said. “He was really sharp and came in in a volatile situation there in the eighth.”
Cal Poly and UC Davis will meet again at 6 p.m. Friday in the second game of the series. Sophomore Erich Uelmen (5-2) is scheduled to start for the Mustangs, and the Aggies will counter with senior lefty Spencer Henderson (1-5).