Sports

Opening round goes to the Blues, who complete a sweep

San Luis Obispo Rattlers shortstop Nigel Morton tries to control a bouncing grounder during Thursday’s game against the San Luis Obispo Blues.
San Luis Obispo Rattlers shortstop Nigel Morton tries to control a bouncing grounder during Thursday’s game against the San Luis Obispo Blues. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Fans of college baseball on the Central Coast already know the prowess of the Cal State Fullerton baseball team.

Now fans of the San Luis Obispo Rattlers can relate.

San Luis Obispo Blues starting pitcher Colin O’Connell and center fielder Austin Kingsolver, making their first appearances of the season after arriving from Fullerton, powered the Blues to a 6-2 win and a series sweep of their intracity rivals on Thursday at SLO Stadium.

O’Connell pitched five strong innings, allowing just one hit and striking out six.

“I thought (my first start) went pretty well,” O’Connell said. “I left a few balls up and somebody got a little blooper.”

Although he left with a 2-0 lead, O’Connell didn’t factor in the decision as the Rattlers scored twice in the sixth to tie the score.

“I wish we had been able to score a couple more runs early for him,” Blues manager Chal Fanning said.

O’Connell and Kingsolver arrived in town late because of Cal State Fullerton’s participation in the NCAA postseason.

The Titans finished one win from reaching the College World Series for the 17th time in school history.

“(O’Connell) had a great start,” Fanning said. “It goes to show where he’s pitching out of. There’s a reason why he’s there. I couldn’t ask for more to get a better start out of there.”

Kingsolver, also making his first appearance, had three hits, scored twice and also stole a base for the Blues (9-7, 8-5 California Collegiate League), who swept the Rattlers in the first-ever league series between the two.

Meanwhile, the Rattlers (8-10, 2-9) are in danger of falling off the pace in league. The Ratters have lost just once in seven non-league games, but that success hasn’t transferred into league play.

“We’ve got a good league,” Rattlers coach Roy Howell said. “If you can just battle and stay in it; we’re all going to beat each other up.”

Still, the Rattlers made several crucial mistakes that turned the tide of the final two games of the series. Mistakes, that if not made, could have turned the series in their favor.

Former San Luis Obispo High standout Davey Schultz atoned for one of those mistakes — a base-running error in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game — by recording three hits and scoring a run, but it wasn’t enough.

“The first game we got blown out and embarrassed ourselves out there and didn’t play the game like they know how to play it,” Howell said of the 10-1 loss. “But you come back the next two and see if they stand up. We’ve got a young ball club and they stood up and said OK and came back and the last two ball games could have gone either way.”

It won’t get any easier for the Rattlers as they head out on the road to take on the defending league champion Santa Barbara Foresters.“That’s why this is a great game though,” Howell said. “Tomorrow is a new day and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

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