Baseball splits 2020 series home opener

The Cal Poly Pomona baseball team flexed its might to erase a three-run deficit in a nail-biting, walk-off victory against the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs Mountain Lions to kick off the 2020 season Friday evening at Scolinos Field.

Junior shortstop Drew Cowley started off the bottom of the 12th inning by getting on base after being hit by a pitch. Senior outfielder Christian Moya then singled to put two runners on with nobody out. Then, senior second baseman Ryon Knowles played hero for the Broncos, with a two-run single to secure the team’s first win of the season.

Senior pitcher Gavin Velasquez was given the nod to start the season off for the Broncos. Velasquez found himself in a jam in the fifth inning with the score tied 1-1 after allowing a walk and a single to start the inning. With runners on first and third, head coach Randy Betten decided to go to his bullpen.

Velasquez finished his day after pitching five innings, allowing three earned runs, five hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.

Junior pitcher Chris Burnette came into the game and gave up two doubles and a single, which gave the Mountain Lions a 4-1 lead in the fifth. Once again Betten made the call to the bullpen and brought in junior Steven Ordorica.

Burnette pitched a third of an inning, allowing three hits and one run.

With runners on second and third, Ordorica got the Mountain Lions’ left fielder to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Two innings later, the Broncos began chipping away at the deficit after senior first baseman Brennan McKenzie ripped a double to center field and advanced to third on a throwing error. Cowley then hit a single through the infield and scored McKenzie to bring the game to 4-2.

Another pitching change was made to start the top of the ninth, ending Ordorica’s day after throwing 2 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and no hits.

Freshman pitcher Diego Santiago was called on. Santiago would allow two hits, one run and two strikeouts in the ninth inning, giving the Mountain Lions a 5-2 lead going into the bottom half.

Things looked bleak for the Broncos going into the bottom of the inning chasing three runs, but most of the fans remained.

Senior third baseman Matt Manskar reached first base after being hit by a pitch to start the inning off. Manskar advanced to second base after freshman catcher John Pappas grounded out to the third baseman.

Knowles drove in Manskar, shrinking the Mountain Lions’ lead to two. With Knowles on first, up came the designated hitter, junior transfer Derek Marshall Jr.

Marshall Jr. waited for his pitch and smacked the ball over the fence for a two-run home run.

“I just tried to stay calm, went down and talked to coach, and he just told me to take a good hack at one of them and just do what I’m supposed to do,” Marshall Jr. said. “I got a curveball that I was looking for, and I hit it.”

Junior Steven Ordorica pitched 2.2 innings, allowing no runs. (Lauren Bruno | The Poly Post)

With the game now tied, it headed to extra innings and junior pitcher Mathew Orozco would come in to relieve Santiago to start off the 10th inning.

Orozco threw two shutout innings before giving up a solo home run to start the top of the 12th. 

The 12th inning started off with Cowley reaching first after being hit by the ball. Moya then singled through the left side of the infield, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Moya’s hit would chase the Mountain Lions’ sophomore pitcher Jon Sotto out of the game.

The Mountain Lions brought in junior pitcher Dagin Renck to face Manskar, who popped up in the infield. Pappas would then come up with one out and advance Cowley to third and Moya to second after grounding out to the shortstop.

With two down in the bottom half of the inning, Knowles drove in Cowley and Moya to win the game after hitting a single.

“I had been seeing the ball well all night, I had just been getting unlucky hitting the ball right at people,” Knowles said. “I didn’t mess with my approach; I just stayed the other way and I ended up getting a pitch to hit there and finally found a hole.”

“We found a way to win that ballgame and we were down, and like I told the team, it looked pretty bad, 4-1. But we found a way to get the tying run in the seventh, eight, ninth, 10th go-ahead run, and then found a way to win it there in the 12th,” Betten said.

The Broncos played a doubleheader on Saturday.

Freshman pitcher and first baseman Cameron Mabee was on the hill for game one. Mabee threw four shutout innings before giving up two runs in the fifth.

Cowley hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth to cut the Mountain Lions’ lead in half.

Senior pitcher Troy Bethell was brought out in the seventh. Mabee finished his first start having pitched six innings, allowing two earned runs, two walks, three strikeouts and five hits.

Bethell gave up two singles and an unearned run.

The Broncos would go out quietly as they failed to score again in the game.  The final score was 1-3. The team would look to bounce back for game two of the doubleheader.

The Broncos sent out sophomore pitcher Drew Atherton for the start. Atherton, who finished the 2019 season with a record of 2-2 and a 3.32 earned run average, got off to a bumpy start as the Mountain Lions wasted no time in stringing together hits.

The Mountain Lions put together two hits in the first inning and scored one run.

The Mountain Lions would not score again with Atherton on the mound as he threw six shutout innings. Handing the ball over to start the eighth, Atherton’s first start resulted in seven innings pitched, allowing one run, six hits and six strikeouts with no walks.

The Broncos posted two runs on the board in the third inning after Pappas singled to get on base. Knowles also singled to put two runners on base with Marshall Jr. coming up to bat.

Marshall Jr. drove in Pappas and advanced Knowles to third after hitting a single to left center. Junior center fielder Cesar Lopez hit a sacrifice fly to right field allowing Knowles to score, which gave the Broncos a 2-1 victory.

Junior pitcher Connor Tousignant tossed two shutout innings, allowing no hits and locking down his first save of the season.

The Broncos took to the field on Sunday to wrap up the series opener.

Despite a solo home run in the first by Knowles, the Broncos fell 3-1 to the Mountain Lions to split the weekend.

The Broncos will head to La Jolla this Friday to kick off conference play against UC San Diego, before heading back to Scolinos Field on Sunday to finish the series out with a doubleheader. 

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