The Arroyo Grande High baseball team entered Wednesday’s home game against St. Joseph riding an undefeated start to league play due in large part to an explosive offense with the potential to strike at any number in the order.
That trend continued in the first inning against the Knights before a string of curveballs — both literal and figurative — threw the Eagles off balance and left them regrouping in the wake of their first PAC 7 defeat.
St. Joseph pitcher Aaron Ventura shrugged off a six-run first to keep Arroyo Grande out of synch in the remaining six frames, and the Knights benefited from a momentum-changing controversial call in the fourth inning before holding on to defeat the Eagles 11-9.
“We got a nice lead, but then we kind of fell asleep offensively and let them back into it,” said Arroyo Grande coach Brad Lachemann, whose team led 6-3 after one inning but gave up the next seven runs. “Once we woke up, it was too late.”
Robbie Silva and Joey DeLaRosa both hit two-run doubles, and Nash Ackerman and Grant Alton had RBI singles in the first inning, as the Eagles appeared well on their way to duplicating Tuesday’s 15-3 win over St. Joseph.
But after compiling seven hits and six runs while batting through the order in the first,
Arroyo Grande (8-6, 4-1 PAC 7) mustered just four baserunners over the next four innings as the Eagles couldn’t stay back on Ventura’s off-speed curveball.
“He threw around 115 pitches, and I’d imagine about 90 curveballs,” Lachemann said. “We had a good idea they were coming, we just didn’t do a good job executing that pitch.”
Added junior Ryan Teixeira: “You figure after you see a pitcher once in the first inning, you’re second time seeing him you’ll start to get it going, but it just didn’t work out like that today. He kept me and all the other hitters off balance.”
Meanwhile, the Knights (6-7, 4-4) made the most of their scoring opportunities. Both times they loaded the bases — once in the first and again in the fourth — they brought all three home on doubles.
Although the second one came on a ruling from the home plate umpire that left Lachemann and the Arroyo Grande supporters in the stands irate.
After St. Joseph loaded the bases on Eagles starter Jayce Thoming with two outs in the top of the fourth, left-handed batter Quenntin Perez pulled the first pitch he saw down the right-field line.
The ball bounced once in play before appearing to spin off into foul territory prior to reaching first base.
However, it was ruled a fair ball, allowing all three runs to come around and score to put St. Joseph ahead 7-6.
“It’s not even close,” said Lachemann, who leapt out of the dugout to argue. “It’s two feet foul.”
After the game, the Eagles weren’t using the call as an excuse for losing, although they acknowledged the critical impact it had on the outcome.
“That was definitely a crucial play, but that’s (the umpire’s) his call and what he says goes,” Teixeira said. “We’ve got to deal with that, but that’s not why we lost the game. We lost the game because we couldn’t hit (Ventura’s) curveball.”
The Knights tacked on one more in the frame and two more in the fifth to take a 10-6 lead.
“It was big for them, but I think it’ll be big for us in the long run because we can’t let things that we can’t control dictate the game,” senior Garrett Ball said of the play. “We have to go out, shake those kinds of things off and be able to move on.”
Casey Muth singled home Mikey Ross in the sixth inning for Arroyo Grande’s first run since the first, but an RBI single off reliever Jeffrey Fernandes put the Eagles down four heading into their final at-bats.
Ross, hitting ninth in the lineup, roped a two-out, two-run double off the fence in left field to knock Ventura out of the game and pull Arroyo Grande within two.
Ball drew a walk from St. Joseph reliever Walker Armstrong, who then hit Ackerman to load the bases, but Muth grounded out to shortstop to end the game.
The loss “was definitely a reality check,” said Teixeira, as the two teams play the rubber match Friday at St. Joseph. “We came in confident and then all of a sudden nothing was going our way and momentum switched over to their side. We picked it up in the last inning, so hopefully going into Friday we can keep doing what we had been doing in league and stick to our approach.”