That any baseball player from the Bay Area would list Tim Lincecum as his favorite athlete doesn’t need much explaining.
The individual shout-out to “The Freak” that can be found in the official Oregon State bio for Harmen Sidhu has a somewhat more personal inspiration, though.
“He’s kind of a small guy like me,” said Sidhu, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior from Pleasant Hill who played at Diablo Valley College before transferring to the Beavers. “He’s not the biggest guy, but he got there — even when people doubted him, because scouts look for size.
“So I envy him.”
Sidhu looked like a big-time starter Thursday night, putting together what San Luis Obispo Blues manager Chal Fanning said was likely the best overall performance from his staff during this summer collegiate season.
“And we’ve had good outings from a lot of guys, so I don’t want to take anything away from them,” Fanning said.
Ironically making his first start of the year, Sidhu led the Blues to a pivotal 4-1 win over the visiting Santa Barbara Foresters at SLO Stadium.
Sidhu (4-0), who came into the game with a 0.45 ERA, albeit in a fairly meager 20 innings of work, nearly went the distance in the victory, a 95-pitch masterpiece in which he got through eight innings of two-hit ball.
“When I found out, I was kind of stoked,” Sidhu said of learning he’d gotten the nod. “I pitched against these guys last week for five innings, and it was (more or less) the same lineup, so I kind of knew what to expect.”
Mixing fastballs away and in with a solid curve and slider, he didn’t give up any earned runs, had eight strikeouts with no walks, and retired the last 16 batters he faced.
“He was definitely on point all night,” Fanning said. “What Harmen did to make the switch going into the rotation was an outstanding veteran effort.”
The Blues were able to back Sidhu in a timely manner, getting eight hits off of Austin Kubitza (1-1), a 6-foot-5 Freshman All-American from Rice who was a seventh-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates coming out of high school.
Sidhu’s showing closed the book on the fiery season series between the two Central Coast rivals, one that included numerous hit-batsmen and an ensuing dugout-clearing brawl.
Each club was ranked in Wednesday’s latest PerfectGame.org national Top 25, with the Foresters at No. 2 in the country and the Blues at No. 15.
“It’s definitely a big win,” Sidhu said.
Now just a half-game back of the Foresters (29-10, 20-10) in the California Collegiate League standings, the Blues (28-11, 19-10) are tantalizingly within striking distance of putting a halt to Santa Barbara’s streak of eight consecutive league championships.
“It’s just something that this organization has been working toward,” Fanning said. “I respect the heck out of Santa Barbara and Bill Pintard and his staff. They’re a benchmark in summer baseball. They’re nationally renowned, not only in the CCL but across the country. So to have our program be able to split the season series 3-3 and be right there with them right now, it’s a good accomplishment.”
The Blues have six CCL games left: at home against the fourth-place Orange County Pioneers at 6 p.m. today, a three-game set at the third-place Las Vegas Club from Saturday through Monday, at the sixth-place Glendale Angelenos on Wednesday, and then another home game versus the Pioneers on July 28.
If the Blues were to finish atop the standings, they’d earn an automatic bid to the NBC World Series, which would start Aug. 2 in Wichita, Kan.
Whether the Blues would be able to make the trip, Fanning said, could depend on factors such as fundraising and whether it’d be compatible with players’ academics.
“Now, it’s a reality to talk about,” Fanning said. “But at the same time, if we come out (today) and lay an egg or go to Vegas and don’t play well, (the win over the Foresters) was for naught.”