If the San Luis Obispo Blues are going to win the California Collegiate League North Division, they’ll have to beat a team that has given them trouble this summer.
The Blues (36-15, 20-13) got off to a solid start Tuesday with a 6-1 victory over the Santa Barbara Foresters in the first of a three-game series this week at SLO Stadium in summer collegiate baseball.
The two teams are now tied for the division lead. They play again tonight and Thursday in this season’s series finale between them. Both games are at 6 p.m.
The Blues then play the Conejo Oaks and the Foresters (31-13, 20-13) play the Santa Paula Halos in the final regular season games Friday.
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Coming into the game, the Foresters had a 5-1 edge in the season series against the Blues.
On Tuesday, San Luis Obispo led 1-0 until the eighth when the Foresters tied it on a solo home run by third baseman Shane Hoelscher over the leftfield foul pole.
The Blues stormed back with five runs in the bottom of the eighth, capped by a two-run single to left by second baseman Will Maddox to make it 6-1.
Cal Poly standout Jimmy Allen also had an infield single and an RBI in the inning for the Blues. Allen was hit by pitches twice in the contest.
First baseman Derek Miller went 3 for 5 with two runs scored.
Blues starter Andrew Lee, a 6-foot-6 righty from Tennessee, mowed down Santa Barbara’s hitters in five scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing just one hit.
“I’m coming off Tommy John surgery,” Lee said. “I’m on my way back to where I was with my velocity. But I felt good today. (Catcher) Bryan Case called a great game.”
Lee said Blues players who keep track of velocity told him his fastball clocked in at 87 to 89 mph.
And he kept Forester hitters off balance with a changeup and a “slurve” that he has been tinkering with this summer.
The pitch that sweeps away from a right-handed hitter struck out Santa Barbara shortstop Keaton Jones to get out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth.
For most of the night, it appeared that lefty designated hitter Cody Jones’ line-drive single to right to score Miller in the first would be the difference in a one-run game.
“With runners on base, I was looking for something to pull, and I hit it pretty well,” Jones said. “I play at Western Carolina and a couple of other guys on the Blues do, too. We won our conference this year. It’s nice to experience the feel of winning and get that in your blood.”
The Blues have had some close losses against the Foresters, including a 2-0 defeat in the championship game of the Rawlings Cup, a qualifying tournament for the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., which takes place from
Friday through Aug. 10. Both the Blues and Foresters, the defending champions, will go to the tournament this year.
But for the CCL title, the Blues have a chance to seek their revenge at home.
“They’re going to come swinging the bats mad, and we’ll have to match that (today),” Blues coach Chal Fanning said.
“I really like the way we persevered. We haven’t played our best against them, but I liked the way we played today. Andrew Lee pitched outstanding. He gave us five quality innings.”