Bailey Gaither and the rest of the Paso Robles High baseball team’s baserunners continued using their speed to manufacture runs and force Righetti to make routine plays look difficult.
Relief pitcher Paul Anderson took over in a tough situation and shut the door on the Warriors with apparent ease.
Add it up and you get Friday’s 8-1 home victory that clinched the three-game series and kept the Bearcats atop the PAC 7 standings.
“After the loss on Tuesday (4-2 to Righetti), we were able to come back strong down there on Wednesday and put up a lot of runs. To come back here on Friday and win the series is a big momentum-changer for us,” said Gaither, who reached base all four times Friday and scored a pair of runs.
Gaither’s speed, which allowed him to steal seven bases in Wednesday’s 16-6 victory, was on full display again in the rubber match.
The junior got caught in a rundown trying to steal second in the first inning, but avoided a tag long enough so Ben Mecham could score from third for the game’s first run. Two innings later, Righetti pitcher Cayce Rocco tried to pick Gaither off at first again, but threw the ball into the outfield, scoring Collin Lux from third. Two batters later with Gaither on third, his fake attempt to steal home caused Rocco to balk and award the Bearcats shortstop a free trip to home plate.
“He’s really been the catalyst of our offense,” Paso Robles coach Derek Stroud of Gaither, who entered the game hitting .518 with 28 runs, 26 stolen bases and 13 RBI. “We have a lot of guys contributing, but it seems like where he goes, we go. We’re just thankful to have him; he’s fun to watch.”
Paso Robles (13-2-2, 9-2-1 PAC 7) took a 4-1 lead into the fifth, when once again, Gaither’s athleticism sparked a rally that resulted in all nine Bearcats coming to bat in the inning.
Gaither legged out a grounder to shortstop to reach base with one out before Taylor Holden moved him to third with a single to left field. Jonathan Baldwin followed with a sharp grounder to first and instead of taking the easy out, Righetti’s Conor Regan tried to throw out Gaither at home.
It wasn’t close, as Gaither scored standing up and RBI hits from Kai Bedell and Lux and a bases-loaded walk drawn by Tyler Ridino broke the game open.
“There’s a lot of athletic guys in our lineup,” Stroud said. “If they get on, they can cause some damage.”
Righetti (8-6, 5-4) was in position to inflict plenty of damage of its own in the third inning, when the Warriors loaded the bases with one out thanks to an error, a walk and a hit off Paso Robles starter Nolan Binkele.
The freshman left-hander walked the next batter to tie the score at 1, and Stroud brought in Anderson, a senior, to handle the pressure situation.
Anderson (7-0) said his game plan was to “just throw strikes and let the fielders behind me make plays.”
Turns out, all it took was one strike.
Righetti’s Manuel Bucio took Anderson’s first offering and grounded it directly to third baseman Christian Erickson, who didn’t skip a beat in stepping on third and throwing to first for an inning-ending — and rally-killing — double play.
“Coming in and getting that double play right off the first pitch, that was huge,” Stroud said. “No doubt about it, that was a big difference in the ball game.”
Anderson’s productivity didn’t drop much after that as he allowed just three Warriors to reach base — one hit, one walk, one hit batter — over the course of the final four innings.
Bedell finished with three singles and two RBI, and seven different players scored a run for the Bearcats, who have won seven of their past eight and increased their lead in the league standings over St. Joseph (8-4), Pioneer Valley (7-4-1) and Arroyo Grande (5-4).
Paso Robles heads to the Righetti Tournament before ending the regular season with series against the Eagles and San Luis Obispo.
With four of their final six PAC 7 games on the road, the Bearcats were glad to take advantage of the Barnhart Field advantage while they had it, improving to 6-2 at home.
“It always feels good to be back home,” Gaither said. “We’ve had a pretty good crowd all year and we’ve been playing good ball, so we just want to keep it going.”