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April 23, 2011

Mustangs Drop Series Finale to Cal State Fullerton, 9-3

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – First baseman Nick Ramirez belted two home runs and drove in four runs while junior right-hander Tyler Pill also had two hits, knocked in one run and scattered three hits over seven innings as No. 5/8 Cal State Fullerton defeated Cal Poly 9-3 in a Big West Conference baseball game Saturday afternoon before 1,737 in Baggett Stadium.

Pill (5-0) remained perfect on the season, striking out four and walking one, allowing just one earned run, as the visiting Titans salvaged one win in the three-game series and improved to 28-11 overall and 9-3 in the Big West.

Cal Poly, which won Thursday 7-2 and Friday 4-2, had its season-high seven-game winning streak snapped, falling to 18-17 for the season and 8-4 in Big West games, tied for second place with UC Irvine.

Ramirez, who now leads the Big West with six home runs this season, hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning as Cal State Fullerton overcame an early 1-0 Cal Poly lead, then led off the seventh with his second round-tripper of the game as the Titans added to their 7-1 lead.

Ramirez picked up another RBI on a fourth-inning grounder to shortstop.

Left fielder Casey Watkins, starting for only the fifth time this season, contributed two singles and a double while shortstop Anthony Trajano, right fielder Carlos Lopez, Pill and Ramirez all had two hits as Cal State Fullerton put together a 15-hit offensive attack.

Cal Poly mustered just five hits off Pill and reliever Raymond Hernandez.

Third baseman Evan Busby (pictured above), hitting just .190 prior to the series, collected a single and double Saturday for his first two-hit game since April 3 and his third of the season. He was 4-for-10 in the series, lifting his average 30 points.

Shortstop J.J. Thompson, who had an 11-game hitting streak snapped Friday, added a double Saturday.

Freshman right-hander Chase Johnson (1-3) allowed three runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings in suffering the loss. He did not walk anyone and struck out two. Joey Wagman, Frankie Reed and Taylor Chris all pitched in relief for the Mustangs.

Cal Poly's first run of the game came in the third inning as Busby singled up the middle, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jimmy Allen and scored on Bobby Crocker's single to left field.

Crocker left the game in the fifth inning due to a leg muscle strain.

The 1-0 lead didn't last long as Cal State Fullerton scored three times in both the fourth and sixth inning sandwiched around a run in the fifth and added its final two runs in the seventh.

The Mustangs scored twice in the ninth. Matt Jensen walked and Mitch Haniger doubled to put runners at second and third with nobody out. One out later, pinch-hitter Jono Grayson lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to score Jensen and, when the throw from cutoff man Greg Velasquez skipped past third base and into the Mustang dugout, Haniger was awarded home plate.

Cal Poly earned a series win over Cal State Fullerton for only the second time in the last 38 years, taking two of three games against the Titans in 2007, also in Baggett Stadium.

The Mustangs are 6-9 against the four-time national champion Titans over the last five seasons and  5-2 against top-25 teams this year.

Saturday's crowd was the largest of the season at Baggett Stadium and the biggest since May 10, 2009, when Cal State Fullerton and the Mustangs drew 1,778. The series drew 4,271 fans.

During the seven-game winning streak, which lifted Cal Poly over the .500 mark for the first time this season, the Mustangs hit .333 with four home runs, averaging six runs and 11 hits a contest, while the pitching staff compiled a 1.43 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 63 innings.

Cal Poly returns to action next weekend with a three-game Big West series at Long Beach State. The 49ers are 19-18 overall and 6-6 in conference games following Saturday's 6-2 win at UC Santa Barbara, salvaging one win in the three-game series.

Friday's game at Blair Field starts at 6:30 p.m., followed by Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 1 o'clock.