San Luis Obispo Blues first baseman Matt Juengel was all over the place Wednesday at SLO Stadium.
The Texas A&M product hit a home run, a single, walked and had a sacrifice fly that was just feet away from leaving the park in the Blues’ 5-1 win over the San Luis Obispo Rattlers.
“I was just seeing the ball really well today,” Juengel said. “I took good (batting practice), coming out here every day at 2:30 and putting in work. It helps a lot.”
Juengel also scored twice and added a stolen base while securing eight putouts, collecting an assist and making several stellar defensive plays.
“That’s typical Matt,” Blues manager Chal Fanning said. “He’s been producing since the day he stepped in, and I hope the Blues fans that have been coming to watch him are enjoying it because he’s a special player.”
Juengel is leading the Blues (14-8, 13-6 California Collegiate League) with a .458 batting average in 12 games since the Aggies were eliminated by Miami in an NCAA Regional final.
As many players struggle to adapt to the wood bats of the summer league, Juengel — who was no slouch at Texas A&M, where he sported a .395 average — has actually increased his average by nearly 70 points.
The Blues got another solid start from Cal State Fullerton’s Colin O’Connell, who allowed no runs on three hits in six innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
O’Connell kept hitters off balance throughout the game. Six of his seven strikeouts came looking.
“When you get guys looking you’re locating very well, and I think some hitters just give up on it when they know they can’t hit it and hope it misses,” Fanning said.
Juengel pinpointed the dominance of O’Connell’s curveball as the likely reason the Rattlers (9-14, 3-13) were so baffled with his pitches.
“I think it has a lot to do with his curveball,” Juengel said. “His curveball is a pretty dominant pitch. On top of that, his fastball hits 90 to 93 and a lot of hitters are going to have trouble with that.”
Fanning may have found his ace pitcher in O’Connell, who has allowed just four hits in 11 innings while striking out 14 and walking only one in two starts against the Rattlers.
“I love playing behind him,” Juengel said of O’Connell. “There’s not much to worry about. You may get a ball here and there but not much other than that.”
The Blues won on the 64th birthday of the original Blues franchise’s nickname. The Blues name was originally brainstormed by then-sports editor of the Telegram-Tribune, George Baker, who disliked the previous name of “The Merchants.”
More importantly for Fanning than winning on the team’s birthday was keeping up with the Santa Barbara Foresters.
“You have to,” Fanning said. “We had a little bit different attitude tonight after the way we played yesterday.”