It’s not often that a pitcher gets a standing ovation after the first pitch of a game.
But for senior Ryan Alsworth, Friday’s first pitch marked a school record 80th career pitching appearance.
“With Cal Poly having the large baseball history that it does, it really means a lot to me especially doing it senior weekend and at home,” Alsworth said.
Alsworth threw 110 pitches against Chico State, but the outcome of the game came down to one sequence in the third inning against Chico State’s best hitter, junior first baseman Alex DeVito.
In the first inning, DeVito hit a long fly ball to the warning track in center field. In the third inning with two runners on, the long fly ball ended up in the parking lot in left field.
DeVito’s three-run home run put Chico State up 4-1 and ended up being the difference in a 5-1 Chico State win in game one of a four game series.
“We threw some off-speed stuff because he’s a big guy, so we kind of changed his eye level a little bit and then I went in… He just happened to be sitting on it and he put a good swing on it,” Alsworth said.
A seemingly harmless hit batsman with one out in the third ended up being the start of Alsworth’s troubles.
Junior second baseman Louie Canjura and senior third baseman Cameron Santos followed up with back-to-back base hits to set the table for DeVito who came into the series hitting .354 and on a four-game hitting streak.
“It comes down to a handful of pitches and that was the biggest at-bat at the moment of the game and the other guy got it,” coach Randy Betten said.
The series had added importance with West Regional rankings being released on Wednesday with Chico State and Cal Poly Pomona ranked seventh and eighth respectively.
The top-six teams in the region qualify for the NCAA Division II tournament.
“It’s a playoff atmosphere and that’s what we try to get to, that’s what we build all these games to to try and get to that point,” Betten said.
After the home run, Alsworth retired eight batters in a row highlighted in the fifth inning by senior second baseman Bryce Graddy diving to his left head first to prevent a base hit.
“I kind of just said, ‘the hell with it,’ they’ve already got their runs, [so] there’s no sense in being scared anymore,” Alsworth said.
“It was just more attacking the hitters and making them hit it instead of trying to miss the barrel, miss the bat.”
Alsworth’s run of retired batters ended when DeVito returned in the sixth.
He hit a hard grounder to the right side that went under the glove of junior first baseman Nic Hernandez for a base hit.
Chico State added its fifth run later that inning when, with runners at the corners and two outs, sophomore catcher Ryan Stofiel doubled to left field.
DeVito scored from third and freshman outfielder Turner Olson was waved home.
Freshman left fielder Cesar Lopez threw a laser to the cut-off man freshman shortstop Drew Cowley who in turn fired a perfect throw to junior catcher Alex Kline to cut down Olson to end the inning.
Wasted opportunities cost the Broncos, who left runners on base at the end of eight of the nine innings.
In the second inning, junior designated hitter Patrick Flynn turned on the first pitch he saw for a double off the base of the wall in left field.
Graddy poked a single into right field and the Broncos looked to be in business with runners at the corners and no outs.
Redshirt freshman right fielder Nick Peifer hit a dribbler to the mound and Flynn, attempting to come home, got caught in a run down and recorded the first out.
Graddy made it to third and Peifer reached on a fielder’s choice.
The Broncos took the lead when Kline laid a sacrifice bunt down but left a runner on when senior center fielder Jacob Bernardy struck out swinging.
Chico starter Grant Larson pitched 7 1/3 innings giving up one run on six hits striking out four.
“My first at bat, I got a lot of off speed pitches and he ended with a fastball so I kind of realized he pitches opposite, he goes changeup, slider early and then ends with a fastball,” Bernardy said.
Bernardy finished the game 2-for-4.
With two on and no out in the sixth, the Broncos failed to cash in when Flynn flew out, Graddy struck out and Peifer grounded out.
In total, the Broncos left nine on base compared to the Wildcats’ three.
“Hopefully the lineup lines up where that guy or two or three that you have in the lineup that are supposed to get those swings just happens to get up there and get that pitch to hit,” Betten said.
Alsworth pitched into the seventh and eighth innings despite being over 100 pitches and retired the final six batters he faced.
“I think he deserved it, he’s earned that, Betten said.
Pitch coach Jenzen Torres told Alsworth that if a runner got on in the eighth he would go to the bullpen.
Alsworth retired the side in order.
In game two, it was the Broncos who used a big third inning to take control.
CPP scored four runs on five hits to take a 5-2 lead and force senior Hilario Tovar to throw 32 pitches.
Junior Michael Gomez picked up a nine-out save in three innings of relief for junior Dylan Francis to hand the Broncos a 6-3 win.
Later that day, the Broncos returned to struggling on offense when they managed one hit in a 1-0 loss. Sophomore Brennan McKenzie’s seventh inning single the only base hit registered over seven innings.
In the series finale, both offenses exploded with the Broncos coming out on top 12-10.
Bernardy seemed to put the Broncos in front for good a three-run home run in the third inning. The Broncos finish the season with a series against Cal State Dominguez Hills this weekend.
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