A PAC 7 baseball showdown between Arroyo Grande High and Atascadero had huge implications for both teams in Friday’s regular-season finale.
An Eagles win would give them a share for a PAC 7 championship with Righetti.
A win for Atascadero was necessary for the Greyhounds just to get into the playoffs as the fourth-place team.
With the teams’ best pitchers on the mound, runs were hard to come by, and the Eagles, who
executed in key situations won 3-1 at home for a three-game series sweep and a six-game winning streak to end the regular season.
Arroyo Grande (18-6-3, 13-3-2 PAC 7) finished atop the league with Righetti, which posted a 14-4 record, but the Eagles get the top playoff seed from the PAC 7 and home field advantage in their first postseason game because they beat Righetti in two of their three head-to-head games this season.
Arroyo Grande handed the ball to 6-foot-5 left-hander Kyle Brown, who pitched a complete game, allowing one run on nine strikeouts and improving his record to 6-2. Brown entered the game with a 1.03 earned run average.
With nearly pinpoint control, the senior who throws in the low to mid 80s didn’t give up a walk and only once went to a three-ball count.
“Kyle controls three pitches and keeps us in games,” Arroyo Grande coach Brad Lachemann said. “He’s a dominant high school guy.”
With their hard-throwing right-handed senior, Bryan Kirkpatrick on the mound, Atascadero (12-15-1, 7-10-1) was able to hang close to the Eagles, who relied on their small ball attack to get runs.
Left fielder Tyler Auerbach scored Arroyo Grande’s first run in the third inning when centerfield Chris Davidson faked a steal to second, got caught in a rundown, and Auerbach was able to sneak in for the run before Davidson was tagged out to end the inning.
A squeeze bunt by Zack Brown in the sixth inning scored Paul Ormonde, who bunted his way on base, earned Arroyo Grande its second run as the Eagles went up 2-0. Eagles third baseman Garrett Ball scored on a wild pitch later in the inning for a 3-0 lead.
“To their credit, our guys work hard on these plays in practice,” Lachemann said. “The first and third play, we practice all the time. And the squeeze, obviously they go ahead and execute it and it’s the difference in the game.”
Atascadero was held scoreless until the seventh inning when third baseman Kelton Torres led off with a single, and Ethan Hicks followed with a sharp grounder to right that found a hole. Then, catcher Nathaniel Javine grounded out to score a pinch runner from third.
But Kyle Brown struck out Levi Keller for the final out, and the Eagles rushed the mound to celebrate their league championship, later showering Lachemann with a water bath.
“I was just trying to blow it by them today,” Brown said. “My fastball was working the best.”
Atascadero had an opportunity to score in the top of the fourth when Torres tried to score on Sam Neely’s single up the middle but was thrown out by Eagles centerfielder Chris Davidson.
Then, Arroyo Grande catcher A.J. Cipolla nailed Neely on a throw to second after tagging out Torres. A run would have tied the score 1-1 and given the Greyhounds another scoring opportunity with one out in the inning.
“I knew I had to make something happen,” Davidson said. “I charged the ball hard, and just let it go. I thought it was going to hop, but it made it all the way in the air. And A.J. made a great throw on the backside to get the runner at second.”
Atascadero coach Paul Teixeira said Arroyo Grande is “the best team we’ve played all season.”