SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- Cal Poly (30-20, 10-8 Big West), which has won at least 30 games eight times in the last 13 seasons and has clinched its 10th winning season since 2000, plays its final home games of the 2012 campaign this weekend, hosting UC Santa Barbara (24-24, 10-11 Big West) for a three-game Big West Conference series inside Baggett Stadium (cap.: 1,734).
First pitches are set for 6 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. All three games of the series will be aired live on ESPN Radio 1280 with Tom Barket or Josh Suchon providing the play-by-play. Audio and video streams as well as live stats will be available on www.gopoly.com.
Cal Poly 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 jumped to much better 7-1 and 20-10 starts in 2012 with series sweeps against Oklahoma State (3-0), Loyola Marymount (4-0) and UC Irvine (3-0) as well as series wins over Washington (2-1) and San Diego State (3-1). The Mustangs, 7-1 in February, posted a 10-8 record in March, including series losses to Minnesota and Long Beach State, and finished April with an 8-8 mark after sweeping a three-game Big West series at home against Pacific.
Cal Poly opened May with a walk-off 10-inning 2-1 victory over Pepperdine two weeks ago as Jimmy Allen belted a two-out first-pitch fastball some 390 feet over the left-center field wall, but the Mustangs dropped two of three Big West games at UC Davis before winning three of four games in a five-day span against CSU Bakersfield, including a 6-2 triumph Tuesday at Hardt Field.
Larry Lee earned his 300th win as head coach of the Mustangs on May 5 in a 12-7 decision at UC Davis. Lee (303-252-2) surpassed Berdy Harr (297-249-6 from 1973-83) as Cal Poly's winningest head baseball coach during the Pacific series a week earlier. Steve McFarland was 290-257 in 10 seasons (1984-93) at the helm of the Mustangs while Ritch Price was 217-228-1 in Cal Poly's first eight years of play in Division I (1995-2002).
After sweeping UC Irvine on April 5-7 to improve to 20-10 on the year, Cal Poly won just two of its next nine games -- eight of the nine games on the road -- and is 23-19 since its 7-1 start in late February and 10-10 since the sweep over UC Irvine. The Mustangs have been 10 games above the .500 mark three times this season -- at 20-10, 29-19 and 30-20 -- and have won eight of their last 11 contests. Cal Poly is fourth in the Big West, two games behind second-place Long Beach State and a half game in back of third-place UC Irvine.
UC Santa Barbara, sixth in the Big West, dropped two of three games to Cal State Fullerton last weekend at home. The Gauchos were 21-17 after sweeping Pacific on April 20-22, but have lost seven of their last 10 games.
Cal Poly's top hitter through 50 games is senior shortstop Mike Miller, who went 10-for-18 in the four CSU Bakersfield games to improve his batting average to .367. Miller, who has 13 doubles, four triples, three home runs, 31 RBI and 48 runs scored this season, is 30-for-64 (.469) in his last 14 games with 10 multiple-hit games, including seven games with three or more hits. He was 5-for-5 against Pacific on April 28.
Sophomore third baseman Jimmy Allen sports a .347 average with 14 doubles, two triples, three home runs, 37 RBI and nine stolen bases. Allen has produced a trio of seven-game hitting streaks this season.
Junior center fielder Mitch Haniger is hitting .342 and leads the Mustangs and the Big West with 11 home runs, 54 RBI, a .616 slugging percentage, 117 total bases and six sacrifice flies. He is fourth all-time at Cal Poly in career home runs (24), sixth in career doubles (46) and seventh in career RBI (127).
UC Santa Barbara, coached by Andrew Checketts (first season, 24-24, Oregon State '98), returned 12 lettermen, including five position starters and five pitchers, off a team which went 26-26 a year ago and finished tied for sixth in the Big West Conference at 10-14. The Gauchos have won series against San Jose State (3-0), Rhode Island (3-0), UC Riverside (2-1), Cal State Northridge (2-1), Pacific (3-0) and UC Davis (2-1).
Top hitters for the Gauchos are center fielder Brett Vertigan (.366, 12 doubles, seven triples, 24 RBI, 17 steals), shortstop Brandon Trinkwon (.351, 14 doubles, 30 RBI) and designated hitter Greg Mahle (.333, 28 RBI). UCSB's pitching staff is paced by Andrew Vasquez (6-4, 1.73 ERA), Zak Edgington (2-4, 3.26 ERA), Kevin Gelinas (2-2, 3.56 ERA) and Matthew Vedo (5-5, 4.91 ERA), all southpaws. Greg Mahle (2-3, 3.32 ERA, four saves), also a left-hander, is the closer.
UC Santa Barbara is hitting .272 this season, has compiled a 3.73 staff ERA and has committed 62 errors in 48 games for a .967 fielding percentage.
The Gauchos claimed Big West titles in 1972 and 1986 and has qualified for the NCAA Division I regionals seven times, the last in 2001.
Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara have met 205 times on the baseball field since the series began when both teams were California Collegiate Athletic Association members back in 1942. The Gauchos hold a 113-92 advantage, earning a non-conference 6-5 victory April 10 at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium.
Cal Poly was ranked No. 22 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper after its 7-1 start and No. 27 five weeks ago after sweeping UC Irvine. The Mustangs are 15-1 on Saturday, 5-1 in shutouts, 27-1 when leading after eight innings, 22-5 when outhitting its foes and 18-5 when making fewer errors than the opposition this season. The Mustangs' 12-7 win at UC Davis on May 5 marked the first time Cal Poly won a game in 15 tries this season when trailing after six innings.
Cal Poly wraps up its 2012 regular season next weekend by visiting UC Riverside for a Big West series Friday through Sunday (6, 6 and 1 p.m.).