Cal Poly SLO Preview: Lineup

Despite losing their two best hitters from last year (1st team all Big West members 3B Brent Morel and CF Logan Schafer), Cal Poly has easily had the best offense in the Big West and leads the conference in almost every statistical category.

The Mustangs have a powerful offense with eight regulars hitting over .300 and lead the Big West in scoring (401 R's, 80 more than the next team), BA (.334), OBP (.426), SLG (.503), HR's (48) and extra base hits (165).  Cal Poly is in the top 25 in the country in BA and R's and in the top 50 nationally in SLG and OBP.  The Mustangs have been very consistent and have scored 5+ runs in 29 of their 33 weekend games.  It looks like the only thing that could stop Cal Poly is something that they have struggled with the past few years and that is the injury bug.  FR 2B Matt Jensen has been the best hitter in the conf this season and leads the Big West in HR, SLG, OBP and total bases but he broke his collar bone last weekend and is out for the season.

Cal Poly's approach at the plate is to wait out the opposing SP and see as many pitches as possible to wear him out and put pressure on their opponents.  The Mustangs also lead the Big West with 208 BB's (50 more than the next team) and are in the top 50 nationally with four players in the top six in the conf in BB's.  Cal Poly has taken 63 HBP's which is also in the top 50 in the country.  The Mustangs won't be cheated when they do swing because they are 2nd in the conf with 303 K's.  With as much power as Cal Poly has, one would think that they wouldn't bunt much but the Mustangs will also put a bunt down in a key situation and are 3rd in the conf with 48 SAC's.  As part of their method of pressuring their opponents, the Mustangs are also 3rd in the conf with 61 SB's and have the Big West leader in that category.

One area that the position players for Cal Poly have been struggling with is defense, where the Mustangs rank 7th in fielding % and have made 59 errors including four infielders with 8+ errors and their infield defense has affected the pitchers and allowed their opponents to put more runs up on the board.  Cal Poly has good speed in their OF, which is necessary in their ballpark with dimensions of 335-385-405-385-335.  The catchers for Cal Poly have done a good job of blocking pitches and have allowed the fewest WP's/PB's in the conf with 28 but they have struggled stopping baserunners and have allowed 49-65 SB's so that will be a key area to watch this weekend with the pressure that Fullerton puts on opponents in the running game.

Infield

C – Cal Poly has had a rash of injuries hit their C's recently.  JC transfer Ross Brayton (RH – .369-1-20-0) has been the starter most of the time and SR Justin Hensley (RH – .357 in 28 AB's) has been the backup.  Brayton was injured two weeks ago against UCSB and Hensley was injured last Tuesday against Fresno State and both haven't played since being injured and are questionable for this weekend.  Baserunners are 15-19 against Brayton and 7-9 against Hensley in SB attempts.  Cal Poly had to burn the redshirt year of FR Jordan Hadlock due to all of their injuries and he has started the last two games in his first action of the season.  He went 1-6 and batted 9th in both games and baserunners went 2-4 in SB attempts.

1B – JR Wes Dorrell (LH – .333-3-36-0) is one of the few LH bats in the lineup and is the regular 1B but has been a catcher previously and was catching earlier this year before being replaced by Brayton.  He has been playing 1B most of the time and will be there once again this weekend if possible.  Baserunners are 27-28 against Dorrell when he is behind the plate. Dorrell does an outstanding job of putting the ball in play and has only struck out 9 times although he isn't patient and has also only walked 9 times.  He was 2nd team all Big West last season (2008 – .304-5-54-0) when he was 3rd in the conf in RBI's.  Dorrell is 3-17 with 7 RBI's in his career against Fullerton.  If Dorrell plays behind the plate Cal Poly would use either Soph Ricky Rossman (RH – 1-16) or RF Adam Melker at 1B.

2B – FR Matt Jensen (RH – .375-9-53-2) has had an outstanding season and his injury was a major blow to Cal Poly.  JR Adam Buschini (RH – .402-5-41-6) has been a utility man for the Mustangs, starting games at 3B, 1B and OF this season and he will be the 2B the rest of the season.  Buschini usually hits in the middle of the lineup and leads the conf in BA and is 2nd in SLG, 3rd in OBP and 5th in RBI.  He has been on fire recently and is 13-25 in his last six games.  Buschini missed last season as a medical redshirt after being a starter two years ago (2007 – .294-4-29-4).  He is not a good defensive player and was moved from 3B due to his struggles there and has played mostly 1B and OF this season.  

SS – JR Kyle Smith (RH - .352-5-32-10) is in his 3rd year as the starter at SS and is the glue that hold things together in the infield defensively.  He did not hit well last season (2008 – .250-2-27-8) when he struggled with a wrist injury but has been hitting very well this year.  Despite usually hitting 8th or 9th, Smith has one of the higher SLG %'s on the team at .543, has been on base often and is 4th in the conf in OBP and 6th in R's and BB's and also leads the team in HBP's.  He is one of the better runners on the team and is 2nd in SB's.  Smith has hit well in his career against Fullerton and is 8-20 with 3 RBI's. 

3B – Soph J.J. Thompson (RH – .302-6-35-2) moved into the lineup at 3B when Buschini was moved to other positions on the diamond as the Mustangs have attempted to fill the hole that Morel left after being drafted.  Thompson usually hits 7th and has been productive at the plate and had a 15 game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday at USC.  He has poor plate discipline with only 9 BB's and 36 K's (7th in the conf).  Thompson has struggled defensively and has made 13 E's.  He went 1-7 at Fullerton last season and his only hit was a HR.  Thompson hit .211 in 76 AB's in 2008.

Outfield/DH

LF – JR Luke Yoder (RH – .303-8-35-8) usually bats 5th or 6th and is 5th in the conf in HR's and the team leader in that category with Jensen out of the lineup.  He had a game winning 3 run HR in extra innings against USF last weekend.  Yoder has good speed and will look to run when he has an opportunity and was the leadoff hitter last season (2008 – .345-8-33-11) when he was 2nd team all conf.  He will work counts and see lots of pitches and swing for the fences because he is 2nd in the Big West in BB's and 4th in K's.  Yoder didn't play against Fullerton in 2008 when he missed the series with a broken toe.

CF – SR Ryan Lee (RH – .352-3-25-25) has gone from a player who barely played earlier in his career to one of the standouts on the team.  He was the RF last season (2008 – .357-0-21-13) and has taken over in CF when Schafer was drafted and moved on and he has given Cal Poly very good defense out there.  Lee is the leadoff hitter and has done an outstanding job as a table setter and leads the Big West in R's, H's and SB's and is 5th in the conf in BB's so it would go a long way towards Fullerton winning the series if they kept him off the bases.  He doesn't hit for much power but he definitely does a great job of getting on base and had a 26 game hitting streak earlier in the season.  Lee wore out Fullerton's pitchers last season and went 7-12 with two RBI's in that series.

RF – JR Adam Melker (LH – .289-0-20-2) was a starter in LF last season (2008 – .314-1-17-1) and will be in the lineup most of the time with all three SP's for Fullerton being RHP's.  He doesn't hit for much power and will usually hit 2nd and often move runners over because he leads the team and is 6th in the conf with 8 SAC bunts.  Melker is 6-20 with 4 RBI's in his career against Fullerton, including his only career HR and a 3 RBI triple in 2007 that won the Friday game.  FR Bobby Crocker (RH – .282-2-14-7) has been getting more playing time as the season has gone on, including going 8-17 in conf games, and will also get some AB's this weekend.  He has more speed and pop in his bat than Melker does and is a very good athlete.

DH – Soph D.J. Gentile (RH – .356-5-40-0) has been a pleasant surprise after struggling as a FR (2008 – .163 in 43 AB's).  Gentile usually bats 4th or 5th has been one of the more productive hitters on the team with a .544 SLG % and is 6th in the conf in RBI's and 10th in BA.  He has been the hottest hitter on the team in conf games with a .410 BA, 3 HR's and 16 RBI's.  He often swings for the fences and is 9th in the conf in K's.