Sports

Blues take series opener against Rattlers

San Luis Obispo Blues outfielder Matt Juengel dives for a flyball during Tuesday’s game with the San Luis Obispo Rattlers but couldn’t come up with the catch at SLO Stadium.
San Luis Obispo Blues outfielder Matt Juengel dives for a flyball during Tuesday’s game with the San Luis Obispo Rattlers but couldn’t come up with the catch at SLO Stadium. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Score round one of San Luis Obispo’s intracity baseball rivalry for the Blues.

The Blues’ summer collegiate baseball team pounded the Rattlers 10-1 at SLO Stadium on Tuesday, taking the first game of a three-game California Collegiate League series.

The Blues, playing as the road team, although both teams share SLO Stadium, backed up a solid performance from starting pitcher and Fresno State freshman-to-be J.D. Salles with a strong defensive effort.

Oregon product Dylan Gavin, playing at third base for the Blues (7-7, 6-5 CCL), made a diving stop to rob Nigel Morton of a leadoff hit in the first inning.

The next batter, former San Luis Obispo High standout Davey Schultz, was nearly robbed of a hit on a diving attempt in the outfield.

“It all started on the mound,” Blues coach Chal Fanning said. “J.D. set a good tone and then our team played defense behind him.”

While it was clear the Blues were locked in defensively, the Rattlers made several key mistakes leading to unearned runs.

The Rattlers (8-8, 2-7) had as many errors (three) as hits on the night. Two of the errors came from shortstop Bobby Buckner on run-scoring plays. On another play, two Rattlers called each other off a pop fly in right field where it dropped, eventually leading to another run.

While the Rattlers were giving up unearned runs, Salles settled in and mowed down hitters, allowing a run on two hits in five innings with three strikeouts and two walks.

“I always put the pressure on the starting pitcher because he’s the one that has to set the tempo,” Fanning said. “He was a bulldog out there; hence, I guess, where he comes from. But he did a good job of setting that tempo.”

Seven of the nine Blues’ batters had a hit, including four hits and four runs from right fielder Matt Juengel.

Blues leftfielder A.J. Robinson added two hits to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.

With the win, the Blues claimed a slim 6-5 advantage in the all-time series. With both teams now competing in the CCL, they will meet five more times this season, all within the next 10 days.

“With the way everybody is kind of stacked up in the league right now, these next 10 days are a way to kind of create some space and that’s what we’re going to try to do,” Fanning said.

The local rivalry was marred by several bizarre instances last season.

A fireworks display prompted a 21-minute delay in the ninth inning of a game that the Blues rallied to win after the delay.

A day later, a fire broke out behind the center field wall, causing a nine-minute stoppage while some players kicked dirt on the fire while awaiting firefighters.

The only combustible element in Tuesday’s game came when Rattlers coach Roy Howell came out to argue what appeared to be a missed batter’s interference call on a stolen base by Juengel. Rattlers catcher Tommy White looked as though he had been hit by a bat while attempting to throw to third and came up clutching his arm.

On the next pitch, Cuesta College product Max Duval stole second base with no throw as Howell and an assistant coach yelled at the umpire that the batter, Ty Muller, was obstructing White’s chance to throw. No one was ejected.

The teams will meet again at 6:05 tonight at SLO Stadium.

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