Feb 11, 2013 6:43 PM by Bill Halter
After finishing last season by winning 14 of its last 17 games, Cal Poly is hoping to carry over some momentum into the 2013 season that starts on Friday at the University of San Francisco. Despite a 36-20 record and second place finish in the Big West, the Mustangs did not receive an at-large berth to the 64 team NCAA Tournament. "It was a devastating blow, we were hotter than any team in the country. Just crushing teams and our team chemistry was so good at the time and we were just feeling so good on the field and obviously it hurt not getting it. But it just fueled our fire even more for this year" said junior third baseman Jimmy Allen who was a 1st Team All Big West selection last season.
Cal Poly lost Big West Player of the Year Mitch Haniger along with hits leader Mike Miller and 10 game winner Kyle Anderson from last season's team. However, the Mustangs return 68 percent of their hits and 76 percent of their innings from a year ago.
Allen is the top returner and will bat third in the Mustangs opening day lineup. The third baseman hit .345 with 44 RBI and 9 steals in 2012. Junior first baseman and left fielder Tim Wise will lead-off after batting .308 with 28 RBI and 11 steals. At 6'4", 200 pounds, Wise isn't a prototypical lead-off guy but head coach Larry Lee likes his ability to take pitches, Wise had a .394 on-base percentage last season.
Fifth year senior Denver Chavez will bat second. The second baseman had a .429 on-base percentage and stole 8 bases last season. Sophomore right fielder Nick Torres will bat cleanup after batting .275 with 5 home runs and 28 RBI as a freshman.
Junior David Armendariz will take over for Haniger in center field, the 6'1", 210-pounder batted .312 with 36 RBI and 12 steals last season. He'll have big shoes to fill as Haniger batted .346 with a conference best 13 homers and 64 RBI.
A couple of true freshman will be counted on to play right away including Peter Van Gansen who might take over for Miller at shortstop. Van Gansen hit .446 with 4 home runs as a senior for Alemany High School in Mission Hills. "He's a gamer, plays hard every single inning. Excellent defender, he battles at the plate, gets on base, see's a lot of pitches" said Allen about Van Gansen.
Elliot Stewart returns to the team after missing last season after having Tommy John surgery. The senior catcher will compete for playing time with junior Chris Hoo. "I've never had two quality catchers in the same year and those two guys are very equal" said head coach Larry Lee. Hoo was an All Big West 1st Team selection after throwing out 22 of 50 would-be base stealers and batting .259. Stewart batted .252 and committed just one error in 26 games behind the plate in 2011 before missing last season.
The teams top pitcher from last season is back, senior Joey Wagman was 9-3 with a team best 2.33 ERA. He will be the teams Friday night starter for a second straight season. 6'5" sophomore left-hander Matt Imhoff will start on Saturday. Imhoff had a 3.04 ERA in 17 appearances last year, he started four games. Sophomore Bryan Granger will start on Sunday. Granger made eight starts as a freshman, he had a 3.60 ERA in 30 innings of work.
Coach Lee says the team doesn't have a closer but that sophomore Reid Reilly and junior Michael Holback are his top two releivers. Reilly had a 2.80 ERA and struck out 45 batters in 54.2 innings last year. Holback fanned 25 batters in 27.2 innings while posting a 2.60 ERA.
Cal Poly made just 46 errors in 56 games last season, good for 15th in the country. It's 3.48 staff ERA was a school Division-1 record. As a team the Mustangs had a .297 average, hitting .337 in their final 16 games. They led the Big West in average, hits, runs, doubles and home runs.
The ten Big West coaches picked Cal State Fullerton as the top team in the conference. The Titans received nine first place votes in the preseason poll after winning a 10th Big West championship in the last 14 years. The Titans return an experienced team including All-American Michael Lorenzen and Big West freshman of the year, Matt Chapman. CS Fullerton was a game better than the Mustangs in the Big West last season. UC Irvine was picked by the coaches to finish second, Long Beach State was picked third. Cal Poly was predicted to finish fourth with UCSB picked fifth.
Lee enters his 11th season in charge of the Mustangs, he has a career record of 309-253. Lee guided Cal Poly to its only division-1 tournament in 2009.
The Mustangs will play at the University of San Francisco on Friday at 2:00pm. The teams will play 1:00pm games on Saturday and Sunday. Cal Poly will then play at Santa Clara on Monday at 3:00pm. The Mustangs home opener is Friday, February 22 against Seattle University.
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