The San Luis Obispo Blues lost their chance to compete for a National Baseball Congress World Series berth, but, in turn, may have stumbled across their key to another one: pitcher Dylan Mendoza. The junior southpaw out of Texas A&M pitched five innings, gave up one run and tallied seven strikeouts, as the San Luis Obispo Blues downed the San Francisco Seals 13-1 in a summer collegiate game during the second day of the Rawlings California Cup at SLO Stadium.
“I believe pitchers make everything flow,” Blues manager Chal Fanning said. “That was a huge start for him. His last start was not very functional. He got behind in the count, was up in the zone and got hit around a little bit. So for him to have a good start was perfect.
“We are right in the teeth of our season, so to have Dylan be able to step into the rotation, and be solid, is huge.”
The Blues lost their shot to play for the Rawlings Cup title — and its automatic berth to the World Series — to Menlo Park. With the Legends holding the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Blues, after beating San Luis Obispo 4-3 on Thursday, they locked up a trip to the Rawlings Cup championship game in Santa Barbara when they downed the Orange County Pioneers 16-4 on Friday.
As the season draws on, Mendoza will be asked to develop into a key part of the Blues rotation. If they can ride that strength on the mound to a California Collegiate League Championship, they will be awarded an NBC World Series berth. And after his performance against the Seals, Fanning said Mendoza is fit for the task.
“Your pitchers have to go out there and throw zeros,” Fanning said. “When Dylan came out there and did what he did, it just made everything work.”
The Blues (22-8) sure looked like a team worthy of the berth, after collecting two triples, a double and 12 hits against the Seals.
Their offense got started early. First baseman Zac Elgie knocked in the first run of the game in the first inning, bringing in Sal Belfonte on a bloop single to right field. During the next at-bat, Seals starter Bobby Wood was called for a balk, which brought home Tanner Witt. Then, back-to-back throwing errors by San Francisco’s Todd Surdez and a Wade Hinkle RBI single led to three more runs and a 5-0 Blues lead.
The Blues would add one more run in the third before Mendoza faced his first hiccup of the game in the fourth. San Francisco’s Brian Mouton doubled over center fielder Brannon Champagne’s head and later came home on a Surdez RBI single to make it 6-1.Other than that blemish, Mendoza said he was happy with his performance.
“I got ahead quick and worked sequences and let the batters do all the work,” Mendoza said. “I had my defense behind me, and they were doing great tonight, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
The Blues pitching staff didn’t run into any more trouble against the Seals, while their offense scored in all but two innings to propel the Blues to the win.
Catcher Jo Jo Sharrar led the Blues at the plate, after going 3 for 4 in the game with three RBI.
Elgie went 2 for 5 with an RBI, and Chad Christensen went 2 for 2 with an RBI.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Fanning said. “They went out and handled themselves very well. I thought it was well played on our side, and this is what is expected everyday.”
The Blues finish the tournament today with a 6 p.m. game against the Orange County Pioneers at SLO Stadium.