When the Cal Poly baseball program announced the signing of Arroyo Grande High’s Colton Haynes this past fall, Mustangs coach Larry Lee described him as a pitcher with a great deal of upside.
Haynes put his talent on display Tuesday afternoon, collecting a career-high 15 strikeouts to lead the Eagles to a 5-2 PAC 7 series-opening win over visiting Atascadero.
“I’ve just been working hard, and it’s been paying off,” Haynes said. “It’s starting to show at this point now.
“I’ve been injured quite a bit this season, so coming off recovery, I’m feeling a lot better, and now I can just focus on getting better and better,” Haynes added.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander walked four batters and gave up six hits in the complete-game effort.
“I was hitting my spots and everything was working,” Haynes said.
As a junior a year ago, Haynes saw limited action, pitching 282⁄3 innings for a 5.37 ERA with 24 strikeouts, but he also improved with the California Wahoos offseason club out of Santa Maria, increasing his velocity to roughly 90 mph.
Haynes walked two of the first three batters he faced Tuesday before settling down, holding the Greyhounds hitless until the third inning.
Haynes gave up all but one of his six hits, and both runs, in the third and fourth innings before slamming the door late.
“When Colton had control, he was dominant,” Eagles coach Brad Lachemann said. “And I like to let him work through that. Because there were times where I was thinking (otherwise), but he’s a battler. He’s not going to give up, and he was very adamant and clear that he wanted to finish the game. So I’m proud of him for that.”
Haynes finished strong, book-ending the seventh with a pair of strikeouts.
“He’s gotten himself in such good shape,” Lachemann said, “with the 136 pitches he threw today, he was throwing as hard the last two as he threw the first two. So that’s a testament to the work he’s done.”
Haynes’ counterpart, Bryce Evans, also went the distance in a solid showing, striking out four batters and walking three. He gave up 11 hits.
Haynes got his first run support of the day in the second, when the Eagles scored twice.
In the top of the third, Atascadero’s Spencer Ruggles hit an RBI single to cut the lead to 2-1, and an inning later, a well-placed Logan Sprouse bunt down the right-field line brought in another run to tie it 2-2.
In the bottom of the fourth, Arroyo Grande’s Brady Muth drove in Jordan Morrison with a single to give the Eagles the lead back for good.Arroyo Grande (10-2, 6-1) then tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.
“This is a good win,” Haynes said. “It’ll give us momentum for the next two games.”
Morrison finished a team-best 3 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI. Teammate Cameron Petetit also went 3 for 4 with a double, and Muth finished 2 for 3 with a double and the RBI.
Kyle Kleinsmith also had an extra-base hit for Arroyo Grande with a second-inning double.
Eagles star Kyle Raubinger, who has signed with Loyola Marymount, had an RBI single in the sixth, and also drew a walk.
Ruggles finished 2 for 4 with the RBI to lead the Greyhounds’ offense, and Mitchell Angeloni was 2 for 4 as well.
Tanner Thompson had a single and drew a walk for Atascadero (5-4, 2-2).