A baseball season, even at the summer collegiate level, is a marathon not a sprint, according to San Luis Obispo Blues coach Chal Fanning.
In the grind of the Blues season, Fanning’s team has hit a bit of a lull, but it’s still in the hunt for a California Collegiate League title.
The Blues lost 8-5 on Thursday to the visiting Santa Paula Halos at SLO Stadium, mounting a last ditch surge in a five-run ninth after being shut out the first eight innings.
San Luis Obispo (22-7, 10-6) was led by Michael Pritchard — its left fielder from the Nebraska and leading hitter on the season — who went 3 for 4 with two RBI and a run scored.
Grayson Long, a 6-foot-5 flamethrower from Texas A & M, threw four scoreless innings in relief and struck out five.
Long’s fastball reaches 95 miles per hour, Channing said, and with rest he was cranking it up on Thursday at San Luis Obispo Stadium.
“I was just trying to get ahead,” Pritchard said. “I trust in our defense. We’re solid.”
The Blues remain in first place in their league, but the race in the league’s North Division is getting tight with three teams — the Conejo Oaks, Santa Barbara Foresters and Halos — all within two games of the Blues.
Starting Tuesday, the Blues have the Rawlings Cup, a qualifying tournament held at SLO Stadium for the National Baseball Congress postseason in Wichita.
“We played tired today,” Fanning said. “I think our guys were a little hung over from last night’s game. We just need to flush this one and turn things around.”
Pritchard has been hovering around .380 on the season and the left-handed slugger from Omaha, Neb., padded his stats versus the Halos, finding the answer against Halos starter Allen Gwynn, who shut down the Blues for much of the game before allowing four runs in the ninth.
Pritchard roped a double to right field against Gwynn with the bases loaded in the ninth to drive in the Blues first runs of the game and avoid a shutout for the second straight night.
“I’ve really just been trying to drive the ball in the gaps,” Pritchard said. “I’ve been more of a slap hitter in college and that’s something I’ve been trying to do here is really just drive the ball. I love hitting with wood. I love the sound of the ball hitting the bat. We just came out flat today.”
A player who is one to watch next year on the Cal Poly diamond had a strong day at the plate for the Halos.
Jordan Brower, a junior with the Mustangs, went 3 for 5, stole a base and scored a run for the Halos.
Perhaps best known for a head injury caused by a flung bat at UCLA in 2011, Brower has seen limited action as a Mustang.
But he’s third on the Halos this summer with a .388 batting average.
Brower and Jeff Paschke, a designated hitter from USC, who leads the league in hitting and entered the game at .488, provided offensive punch for the Halos. Paschke went 2 for 4 with three RBI.
Blues starter Kyle Johnson and reliever Trae Davis each allowed four runs in the contest.
Fanning said players on his roster are still settling into roles. But the challenge now will be to have a short memory after winning six of seven before losing their past two.
“We’ll have to get rest and a good night’s sleep and come back strong against Bakersfield,” Fanning said. “Tonight’s game doesn’t matter tomorrow.”
The Blues face the Bakersfield Sound at 6 p.m. at SLO Stadium today.