After surrendering a home run in the top of the first inning Thursday, Kyle Raubinger had a singular mindset when he stepped into the batter’s box a few minutes later.
“I was going to go hit one,” Raubinger said with a smile. “That’s what I was looking for.”
Raubinger blasted a solo shot to right-center, and made amends on the mound, pitching the rest of the way to pick up the complete-game win for the Arroyo Grande High baseball team.
The emphatic turnabout set the tone for the Eagles in the 8-3 home win over South Hills of West Covina in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 playoffs.
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The Eagles (21-7) advanced to face Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday in the second round. A coin flip this morning will determine the host site of that game, as both schools opened at home.
Raubinger finished Thursday’s win 2 for 2 with a walk, and gave up five hits while striking out five batters and walking three.
The homer was the seventh of the season for the Loyola Marymount signee and reigning PAC 7 Pitcher of the Year. Only three of the hits Raubinger gave up came after the first inning.
“I think he’s played enough games that he knows whatever happens in the first inning really has no bearing on what’s going to be around at the end of the game,” Arroyo Grande coach Brad Lachemann said.
“He knew he was going to get a chance to help us out that way (at the plate), and then he settled down and pitched a great game.”
San Diego State-bound South Hills star Ty France’s early two-run shot put the Huskies up 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth, at which point the Eagles broke through.
Raubinger scored the tying run on a balk before Kyle Kleinsmith drove in the go-ahead run with a double.
The Huskies (21-5), a team that felt spurned by the Southern Section for having to open in the wild-card round earlier this week despite a 20-4 regular-season record, tied it 3-3 in the top of the sixth.
In the bottom of the inning, though, Arroyo Grande erupted for the final five runs to blow the game open.
At the dawn of the rally, with two men already on, the Huskies pulled France for reliever C.J. Saylor. In the next at-bat, Brent VanderVeen gave the Eagles the lead for good with an RBI single that triggered the onslaught.
“We felt like if we got one (run), we’d have it sealed,” VanderVeen said. “We knew that Kyle would come in for the seventh and he could shut them down, so we just needed one.
“We’re playing really well right now,” VanderVeen said. “We’re confident, and everyone’s into the game having fun.”
Kleinsmith finished the day 2 for 3 with two RBI, Jordan Morrison added an RBI double, and Cameron Petetit was 2 for 3 in the win.
“It was a really good effort by the guys,” Lachemann said. “They just never gave up. After the two-run home run in the first inning, we could’ve just tucked tail and left.
“Everybody’s fired up,” Lachemann continued. “They never even got an inch of a feeling that the game was over (after the early deficit), and that’s the whole thing. That’s the battle.”
The upcoming matchup with Harvard-Westlake could provide some added incentive for Arroyo Grande. The Wolverines ended the Eagles’ season a year ago in the playoffs, 6-3, in a 13-inning heartbreaker.
Arroyo Grande can still turn to a pair of standout pitchers who’ll be well rested: Cal Poly signee Colton Haynes and fellow star Jesse Yancosek.
“We’re on a roll,” Raubinger said. “We’ve just got to work hard in practice and then take on whoever we’ve got next.”