The Menlo Park Legends hadn’t posed much of a challenge for the San Luis Obispo Blues the first time the two teams met. The Blues swept the Legends this past weekend, outscoring them by nine combined runs in three games.
But the Legends got their revenge Thursday.
With a tag-team effort on the mound from Cal Poly pitcher Don Medlinger, Richard McCaffrey and Curtis Camilli, the Legends combined to allow just one run on four hits to defeat the Blues 4-1 in the first game of the Rawlings California Cup at SLO Stadium.
“Tip your cap to Menlo,” Blues manager Chal Fanning said. “We’ve got to play better than that. They came out, they had a mission and they accomplished it tonight.”
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It’s an immediate setback for the Blues in the tournament, which hands the winner a chance to head to Wichita, Kan., for the 2011 National Baseball Congress World Series.
There are two brackets — one in San Luis Obispo, the other in Santa Barbara — which consist of the Legends, the San Francisco Seals, the Orange County Pioneers and the Blues on one side and the Conejo Oaks, the MLB Academy Barons, the Seals and the Santa Barbara Foresters on the other.
The winner of the San Luis Obispo bracket will move on to play the winner of the Santa Barbara bracket in Santa Barbara on Sunday.
“We’re OK. We’ve just got to play good baseball the next two days,” Fanning said. “Everyone still needs to play two more games. We need some help now, but we’ll see. Depending on what happens (today), we control our own destiny.”
The loss comes just days after the Blues (21-8) entered the national spotlight.
Earlier this week, a dozen Blues were named to the California Collegiate League All-Star Game, and San Luis Obispo was tabbed as the 10th-best summer collegiate team in the nation by Perfect Game USA.
“I don’t feel pressure,” Blues shortstop Adam Frazier said. “I’m pretty sure no one else feels it either. Being No. 10 in the country, that is just an honor. We obviously want to keep, or improve, that ranking.”
But that success turned on its head Thursday.
The Blues took an early 1-0 advantage in the top of the third with an RBI single to right field by Frazier.
In the bottom of the third the Legends (17-11) answered.
After back-to-back walks from Blues starter Tom Barry, Jon Donati knocked in two runs on a grounder that just grazed off of former Mission Prep standout Alex Detz’s glove at second base.
In the sixth, the Legends added two more. Joe Goldenberg came home after an errant throw sailed over Blues third baseman Chad Christensen’s head, and Grant Nelson scored on a wild pitch that rolled past catcher Thomas Bernal.
It looked as if things would turn around for the Blues in the top of the seventh. Frazier stepped to the plate with runners at second and third and nailed a shot back up the middle.
But Menlo Park second baseman Pierson Jeremiah made a running backhand stop and jump throw to first for the out to end the inning.
“I was pissed,” Frazier said. “I felt like he got a good hop right there. It hit the mound, and it popped up right to him. If that gets through, it changes the game. I guess that’s just baseball.”
In the top of the ninth inning, the Blues had their shot at another comeback. With two outs, Camilli walked the bases loaded to put Christensen at the plate.
He raked in two runs after singling to right, to make it 4-3. That brought up Cuesta College’s Detz, with a chance to be a hero, but he struck out looking to end the game.
“We weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, but we battled,” Fanning said. “And we had a chance there at the end to maybe win, but we came up short.”
Frazier finished the game 1 for 4 with an RBI, while Christensen went 1 for 4 with two RBI.
Bernal, a former Paso Robles High standout now at Kentucky, went 1 for 4.
For Menlo Park, Medlinger went five innings and gave up one earned run to go with his five strikeouts.
At the plate for the Legends, Cal Poly’s Chris Hoo went 1 for 4, and Thomas Pluschkell, also from Cal Poly, went 2 for 4.
The Blues will play the San Francisco Seals, who lost to the Orange County Pioneers 7-4 Thursday, at 6 p.m. today during the second day of the Rawlings Cup.