Gauchos Fall in Rubber Match Against Cal Poly, 8-6

May 28, 2006

Box Score

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - For the fifth time since Big West Conference play began March 31, Cal Poly lost a series opener only to win the series by taking the final two games.

Shortstop Gilbert Gil and left fielder Jimmy Gardiner each had three hits and combined for five RBIs while Casey Fien picked up his sixth win of the season as Cal Poly defeated UC Santa Barbara 8-6 in the final game of the 2006 baseball season Sunday afternoon before 1,257 in Baggett Stadium.

Gil went 3-for-4, scored twice and drove in three runs while Gardiner also went 3-for-4, scoring once and driving in two more. Both played their final game in a Mustang uniform, as did Fien, who allowed six runs and 11 hits in eight innings to improve to 6-5 on the year. Fien struck out three and did not walk a batter.

With the win, Cal Poly clinched the Big West Conference series, two games to one, and finished the season 29-27 overall and 10-11 for fourth place alone in the Big West. UC Santa Barbara concluded its season 26-28 overall and 9-12 in the Big West.

Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara split the six meetings played between the two Central Coast rivals this season. The Gauchos won two of three non-conference games in March.

UC Santa Barbara jumped to a 5-0 lead in the first three innings before Cal Poly mounted its comeback, winning in come-from-behind fashion for the 13th time this season.

The Gauchos parlayed a single, two doubles and a triple into three runs in the first inning and added two more runs in the third on a groundout and sacrifice fly.

The Mustangs got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third as sophomore center fielder Grant Desme singled up the middle for an RBI.

Cal Poly closed to within 5-4 in the fourth inning, chasing Gaucho starter Brian Tracy. Freshman shortstop Brent Morel singled up the middle for two RBIs and Gil's single to center scored Morel.

The Mustangs took the lead in the sixth with four runs off reliever Bryan Fleming.

A double by junior catcher Matt Canepa and a single by Morel preceded Gil¹s two-run single down the right-field line, giving Cal Poly a 6-5 lead. Gardiner followed with his first home run as a Mustang -- a two-run shot to left field that gave the Mustangs an 8-5 cushion.

UC Santa Barbara scored a run in the seventh on Robbie Blauer's double to left-center field, but left a runner at second base in the seventh, couldn't take advantage of a one-out Cal Poly error in the eighth and ended the game by running into a double play at the plate in the ninth.

The Gauchos threatened in the ninth when, facing Mustang closer Rocky Roquet, Chris McMurray singled, Alden Carrithers walked and both advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Brian Gump.

Gaucho shortstop Chris Valaika, who entered the series with a .341 average, hit a foul fly ball that was caught by Cal Poly first baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand with his back to home plate. Van Ostrand turned and fired a strike to Canepa, who tagged McMurray on the helmet for a game-ending double play, Cal Poly¹s third twin-killing of the game.

Tracy gave up four runs and seven hits in four innings. The loss went to Fleming (2-8), who allowed four runs and five hits in 2.1 innings. Justin Segal secured the final five outs.

Roquet, another senior, earned his 10th save, No. 2 all-time on Cal Poly¹s single-season saves list, despite giving up a hit and a walk in the ninth inning.

Van Ostrand, the fifth of eight seniors playing their final game in a Mustang uniform Sunday, went 2-for-4, scoring a run, and finished the year with a .297 average and a nine-game hitting streak. Morel also had two hits, scored twice and drove in two runs for Cal Poly.

Top hitters for UC Santa Barbara were Blauer with three doubles and Gump with a triple and single.

Cal Poly's other three seniors are outfielder Matt Cooper, catcher Jonathan Woodcox and pitcher Nick McMillan.

For the series, Gil went 4-for-8 while Desme, Morel and junior designated hitter Bryan Kepner each went 4-for-10. Gardiner went 4-for-11 and Van Ostrand 4-for-12.

Hosts for the 16 NCAA regional sites, including Big West champion Cal State Fullerton, were announced Sunday and the 64-team bracket will be revealed Monday at 9:30 a.m. on ESPN.