SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Things pretty much went the way Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee drew them up in Sunday afternoon’s elimination game.
He said as much himself after the game.
“It kind of went the way it was scripted,” Lee said. “[Justin] Calomeni came out and gave us some quality outs. [Bryan] Granger came in, did what he needed to do to shorten the game to get to [Reed] Reilly.
“This is the fifth game of this Regional and there’s been four one-run ballgame and one two-run game. Just shows you how competitive this Regional is.”
The Mustangs scored in each of the first four innings, building a 5-1 lead and held on as Sacramento State scrapped back before falling 6-5.
Cal Poly scored its first run without getting a hit. Mark Mathias led off the game with a five-pitch walk, was balked to second base, stole third and came in to score on a Nick Torres’ groundout to third base.
The Mustangs used a hit…a big hit for a run in the second inning. Zack Zehner blasted a pitch out to left field for a solo homer to put them up 2-0. John Schuknecht led off the third inning with a double and came around to score on a Tim Wise RBI single.
Sacramento State got on the board in the third inning when Scotty Burcham led off with a double and was driven in by Kyle Moses on a two-out, two-strike single to centerfield.
The Mustangs responded immediately thanks to Justin Dillon’s wildness. Zehner walked and promptly stole second and third base. Dillon nearly got out of the inning getting the next two batters, but he walked Peter Van Gansen, who also swiped a bag, and Schuknecht flared a two-strike double over the first baseman to score both runners.
The Hornets wouldn’g go down with out a fight. They chased starter Justin Calomeni in the fifth inning after a walk and two singles to start the inning, plated a run. Bryan Granger entered for Cal Poly and immediately got a double play ball to clear the bases, but a run scored to trim Poly’s lead to 5-3.
“It was obviously huge. It gave us momentum in our next ups, hitting-wise,” senior third baseman Jimmy Allen said. “We just felt confident in our defense. Granger came in and got his job done. That’s all we ask him for.”
The Mustangs added a run in the seventh inning and then after two men reached in the bottom half of the inning, Larry Lee turned the ball over to closer Reed Reilly for a seven-out save. Reilly allowed two runs (one earned) in the eighth inning, but slammed the door in the final frame to advance Cal Poly to the Regional championship against Pepperdine.
Cal Poly must win the Sunday night game against the Waves to force a winner-take-all Monday evening matchup at 6 p.m.
Burcham finished the day with three hits and two runs while Moses had two hits, a run, an RBI and a stolen base for the Hornets. Torres and Schuknecht both ended with two hits and two RBI for the Mustangs.
Sacramento State’s season is over as the Hornets have been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. But the players believe the experience was big for the program to take the next step.
“Obviously, it puts Sac State on the map,” Burcham said. “It helps out with recruiting and getting guys to stay in Sacramento instead of going to those powerhouse schools like Oregon State, Oregon or going down to SoCal or to Cal Poly.”
Check out the 23-shot photo gallery from Game 5 of the San Luis Obispo Regional: