The eyes of San Luis Obispo High’s Joey Benadiba and Brent Viescas got big with runners on base against Paso Robles on a day when the wind was blowing out, a delight for hitters.
Benadiba went 4 for 5 with six RBI, and Viescas was 2 for 2 with two walks and five RBI in a 15-7 win against the Bearcats on Tuesday.
Viescas gave the Tigers (6-10, 3-4 PAC 7) a boost in the second with a bases-clearing double off the outfield wall to put his team ahead 8-3.
“Once I got it over the fielder’s head in right, I knew we’d have some runs,” Viescas said. “It was close to going yard. But I was just trying to do my job and get some insurance.”
With no games last week, San Luis Obispo used the time to work out the kinks in its swings and prepare for the heart of the league season.
The practice paid off against the Bearcats (4-8, 0-4), who have struggled to get on track after a winning season last year.
Benadiba, a senior right fielder, was a wrecking crew for the Tigers, hitting two line-drive singles up the middle in the fifth and sixth innings with the bases loaded both times, driving in two runners in each inning. He also had a groundball single to left to score two in the first.
“I’ve been working with coach (Brian) Wong on staying shorter with my swing,” Benadiba said. “I think we hit the ball great overall today. We have a good chance right now to turn our season around.”
The highlight of the day for Paso Robles was a three-run blast over the left field wall from designated hitter Lazoch Ford to pull the Bearcats within 4-3 in the bottom of the first inning.
Ford swung at a high-and-inside first pitch fastball from Tigers’ starter Garrett Giovannelli and launched it into the power alley in left. The ball landed about 390 feet from home plate and got the Bearcats right back in the game with one swing.
The homer was Ford’s first of his high school career and the Bearcats’ second this season.
“I usually like the ball down low,” Ford said. “But I wanted to drive in the runs and got a pitch I could hit. At the time, I thought it gave us the momentum we’d need. I don’t think we’re happy with our performance, but I also don’t think we were overmatched today. We definitely just want to pick it up for the rest of the season.”
Paso Robles starter Paul Anderson entered the game with a 3.88 earned run average but some defensive letdowns made it difficult for him to get out of innings — starting with a dropped popup off the bat of San Luis Obispo leadoff hitter Sinjin Todd to begin the game.
Anderson also struggled with his control, which gave the Tigers opportunities to score.
Bearcats coach Derek Stroud said he was pleased with his team’s offensive output, but wanted to see his players battle better, and minimize defensive mistakes.
“I think we just needed to compete a little better,” Stroud said. “You can get seven runs, but you have to play D as well.”
Giovannelli, who threw five innings, didn’t have his best game on the mound, but he pitched well enough for the win. He was hurt by an error in the first that kept the inning alive and gave Ford his opportunity for the homer.
“We’ve been working on canceling our mistakes and a walk and the error in the first got them back in the game after a 4-0 lead,” Wong said. “Overall, though, we played well and I think we’re starting to come together as a team.”
Tigers senior second baseman Nick Hill was a sparkplug as well. Hill’s double down the line to left in the second jumpstarted a four-run rally.
Hill also stole home after Giovannelli got caught in a rundown at first — which Giovannelli escaped by diving safely back into first — to help build the San Luis Obispo lead to 9-5.
The Tigers were 21-7 last year and a dominant 17-1 in league, but they graduated five key senior pitchers and this year they’ve struggled to find the right ingredients on the mound.
But Wong said he believe he has found the right rotation in Giovannelli, Todd, Dylan McGee, and Jake Niezen.
The two teams meet again today at 4:30 p.m. at SLO Stadium before returning to Paso Robles on Friday at 4:30 p.m. for the final matchup in the three-game series.