It sounds cliché, but then again, the Bearcats really don’t care how it sounds.
To them, the results speak for themselves.
The Paso Robles High baseball team topped visiting Arroyo Grande 7-1 Wednesday to become the first team to reach 10 wins in the PAC 7. This comes after last year’s Bearcats squad won just two of its 18 league contests and finished with an overall record of 6-20.
The key to the extreme about-face? According to players and coaches, it’s as simple as everyone getting along.
“We just have such great chemistry this year,” senior catcher Kai Bedell said. “A lot of times you’ll have cliques in a team — the young kids will only hang together or something like that — but everyone’s the same on this team. There are no favorites.”
Few were picking Paso Robles (16-5-2, 10-3-1) as the favorite to win the conference this year, but with a logjam of five teams above .500 in the standings, the Bearcats stand alone at the top.
Some of that success can be attributed to the standout play of junior shortstop Bailey Gaither, who entered Wednesday hitting .526 and increased that figure by going 2 for 3 with two RBI and a run.
But baseball is anything but a one-player sport, and the all for one and one for all mentality is paying dividends for a team that finished dead last in the standings a year ago.
“These guys get along,” coach Derek Stroud said. “Obviously, Gaither is having a great year, but when it’s not him, other guys seem to be able to pick him up.”
One piece the Bearcats didn’t have last year was freshman pitcher Nolan Binkele. The left-hander didn’t have dominating stuff against a potent Eagles lineup — he didn’t even strike out a batter — but he pitched five solid innings of five-hit baseball, allowing one walk, one run and only one runner to reach third base. He also picked off three runners at first base, Bedell threw out a baserunner at second and Gaither turned an inning-ending double play in the fourth, when Paso Robles’ lead was just one.
“I just relied on him,” Bedell said of the rookie southpaw. “I had the confidence in him that he’d do his job. He trusted me and I trusted him, and it worked out for us.”
Matt Keller was 3 for 4, Bedell scored twice and six different Bearcats scored.
After Arroyo Grande took a 1-0 lead in the third on a sacrifice fly by Bobby Keffury that cashed in a leadoff double by Nash Ackerman, Paso Robles scored twice in the bottom of the frame on an RBI groundout by Christian Erickson and a wild pitch that scored Taylor Holden.
The Bearcats scored twice in the following inning, when Gaither was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Holden’s ground out to the pitcher brought home Tyler Ridino.
The Eagles (10-10, 6-5) had to play without shortstop and No. 2 hitter Garrett Ball, who was a late scratch with an illness. That caused a shuffling in the lineup and on the diamond, and Arroyo Grande appeared out of synch, committing three errors that extended rallies for Paso Robles.
“I just think the shuffle — with Garrett out of the lineup really hurts us — was a bit of adversity that we didn’t handle real well, and it cost us,” Arroyo Grande coach Brad Lachemann said. Ryan Texeira, who filled in for Ball at shortstop, had two of Arroyo Grande’s six hits. Jayce Thoming, a hard-throwing 6-foot-6 righty, threw four innings, allowing four hits, a walk and four hit batters while striking out three.
“He’s doing well,” Lachemann said of Thoming, a senior who appeared only twice on the mound last year. “It’s just a shame we haven’t put a game offensively and defensively behind him to get him the wins he probably should have.”
Paso Robles put the game out of reach with three runs in the fifth on a wild pitch, a single to left field by Gaither and a flair by Colin Lux that dropped in front of the right fielder to score Steven Deaville.
Jonathan Baldwin pitched the final two innings with a hit, a walk and two strikeouts for the Bearcats, who head to Arroyo Grande for the series’ rubber match Friday before their final league series against San Luis Obispo.
Win out, and Paso Robles will have completed the zero-to-hero transformation it believed it could —no matter how cliché it sounds.
“It might not always be pretty, like Colin’s little blooper that turned into a run,” Bedell said. “But if we just keep stringing ’em together, it seems to be working for us.”