SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (13-7, 0-0 Big West), off to its best start in three years following three series wins and a 2-2 mark in the Aztec Invitational, continues an 11-game homestand this weekend with a four-game series against San Diego State (9-12, 0-3 Mountain West) in Baggett Stadium (cap.: 1,734).
Coach Larry Lee's Mustangs will play the Aztecs on Friday at 1 and 6 p.m. followed by a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday. All four games of the series will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 1280 as well as on the Internet at GoPoly.com with Tom Barket handling play-by-play duties. A video stream as well as live stats for the series also will be available on the Internet.
Cal Poly, ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper three weeks ago, returned 16 letter winners, including five position starters and five pitchers, off its 2011 squad which finished 27-26 overall and third in the Big West at 15-9. The Mustangs started the year 0-6 before winning 27 of their next 44 games.
Cal Poly is off to a much better start in 2012 with series sweeps against Oklahoma State (3-0) and Loyola Marymount (4-0). The Mustangs, 7-1 in February, are 6-6 in March with back-to-back 2-2 weeks, a series loss at Minnesota and a come-from-behind 9-8 win over Dartmouth on Wednesday. David Armendariz had three singles, knocking in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, as Cal Poly rallied from an 8-2 deficit.
San Diego State has lost all three weekend series so far, losing two of three at New Mexico last weekend to open Mountain West play, and also played in two tournaments in San Diego, winning the Aztec Invitational with a 4-0 mark, including a walk-off 4-3 victory over Cal Poly on March 1.
Cal Poly's top hitter through 20 games is senior shortstop Mike Miller (pictured above) with a .360 average and an eight-game winning streak. He also leads the club with 25 runs scored and has reached base safely in 19 consecutive games. Sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen sports a .351 average while freshman right fielder Nick Torres is hitting .325 with eight doubles and 17 RBI. Junior center fielder Mitch Haniger has a .299 average and leads the club with five home runs and 25 RBI.
San Diego State, coached by Major League Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn (10th season (273-289), San Diego State), returned 16 lettermen, including seven position starters and eight pitchers, off a team which went 22-36 a year ago and finished fourth in the Mountain West Conference.
Top Aztec hitters so far in 2012 are second baseman Matt Munoz (.408, seven RBI), designated hitter Seby Zavala (.378) and right fielder Greg Allen (.329, seven RBI). San Diego State is hitting .279 this season, has compiled a 5.08 staff ERA and has committed 25 errors in 21 games for a .969 fielding percentage.
San Diego State has qualified for the NCAA regionals eight times in its Division I history, but only three times since 1990. The Aztecs have won two Mountain West titles from 2000-2011 and seven in the Western Athletic Conference from 1979-99.
San Diego State has had just four head coaches since 1936 -- Charlie Smith, Lyle Olsen, Jim Dietz and Tony Gwynn. A standout at Long Beach Poly and San Diego State, Gwynn played his entire 20-year Major League career for the San Diego Padres (1982–2001). Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29, 2007, Gwynn hit .338 for his career and won eight National League batting titles. He struck out only 434 times in 9,288 career at-bats and never batted below .309 in any full season.
Cal Poly and San Diego State have met 91 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1946. The Aztecs hold a 60-31 advantage, including a walk-off 4-3 win over the Mustangs in the Aztec Invitational three weeks ago at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Cal Poly is 13-7 against San Diego State since the Mustangs moved to Division I prior to the 1995 season.
A year ago Cal Poly posted its sixth winning season in the last eight years, and a third-place finish in the highly competitive Big West Conference at 15-9. The Mustangs have finished in the upper half of the league standings eight times in the last 10 years. Cal Poly was 7-4 against top-25 teams in 2011 and finished 19-7 at home.
The Mustangs, who won just eight games away from Baggett Stadium in 2011, posted a 6-3 mark on the nine-game road trip which ended March 6 at Santa Clara and are 7-5 on the road this year. Cal Poly was 5-3 against West Coast Conference schools in a 10-game stretch beginning and ending with losses to Santa Clara on Feb. 21 and March 6.
Following the series against San Diego State, Cal Poly will play its first two Big West Conference series at home, hosting Long Beach State for three games March 30-April 1 and UC Irvine for three more games April 5-7.