Clearly, the most challenging part of the schedule is all that’s left for the Paso Robles High baseball team.
That’s just fine to the Bearcats, though, who’ve looked forward to this home stretch because they know they can finish it atop the PAC 7.
Paso Robles used a four-run seventh-inning rally on a drizzly Tuesday evening to win 6-4 at fellow league-title contender San Luis Obispo, opening the two teams’ three-game series by taking a half-game lead for first place in the PAC 7 standings.
The Bearcats (13-10, 9-4) will host the third-place Tigers (9-9-1, 6-4) at 4:30 this afternoon and wrap up the series Friday back in San Luis Obispo, before concluding their regular season with a three-game series versus second-place Arroyo Grande (15-4, 7-3) next week.
“I think I speak for everyone when I say I think this is the way everybody wants (the schedule to be like) coming down the stretch,” Paso Robles designated hitter Jesse Horne said. “Everyone wants the hard two series here (at the end), for it all. That’s what it’s all about.”
Paso Robles came into the series coming off a somewhat surprising doubleheader sweep at the hands of Pioneer Valley.
“We never got anything going (against Pioneer Valley), and it was a bad day for us,” Bearcats coach Derek Stroud said. “We talked about that: ‘How do we move forward?’ Playing San Luis and Arroyo Grande, we knew we were going to have our hands full.”
Pioneer Valley had entered last week in last place before taking the series 2-1.
“We’re not going to enjoy (Tuesday’s) win too much,” Horne said. “We’ve got to play with the same intensity every time.”
In the win, Horne blasted a two-RBI single up the middle in the final inning to bring in the go-ahead runs. Earlier in the seventh, Thomas Bernal and Scott Plescia each had an RBI single to tie the score at 4.
“It’s one game, but for us it was a big game,” Stroud said. “They’re a great ball club, and fortunately that last inning we were able to get some clutch hits.”
Bernal and Horne each finished 2 for 3 with a pair of RBI and a walk drawn apiece. Horne’s other hit was a double. Plescia and Mac Stuart both added 2-for-4, one-RBI performances for the Bearcats, with one of Stuart’s hits being a double.
After this series, the Tigers have three-game series with last-place Righetti (6-11-1, 3-6) and then Arroyo Grande, at which point in time Paso Robles will be idle.
“We lose focus after we win a game or two,” San Luis Obispo coach Casey Candaele said. “When you have two good teams, it’s usually who makes the most mental and physical mistakes that loses, and that’s what’s been happening to us.”
Steven Plescia pitched the opening five innings for Paso Robles, striking out two batters, walking two and scattering three hits.
Michael Gonzalez and Bernal both tossed an inning of relief, with Gonzalez yielding two hits and Bernal not allowing any.
David Murillo started on the mound for San Luis Obispo, collecting six strikeouts through six innings.
“He did a great job and battled,” Candaele said.
Murillo walked three batters and gave up nine hits, working his way out of several early jams before being relieved in the seventh by Sean Mullen, who entered with no outs and runners at the corners.
Mullen gave up three hits in a third of an inning before Dakota Wells then came on, inducing a fly-out and picking up a strikeout to retire the side.
At the plate, Murillo was a team-best 2 for 4 with an RBI, while the Tigers also had runs driven in by Dylan Candaele, Simon Phillips and Dash Soglin. Phillips had a triple, while Candaele finished with a double.
“I thought we competed well today, win or lose,” Stroud said. “I know (San Luis Obispo) will be ready to play (today), and we’ve got to try to match them pitch-for-pitch, inning-for-inning. It’s not going to get any easier.”