Hit by an unexpected illness and facing a potential sweep against their in-town rival, the San Luis Obispo Blues turned to an unexpected source for relief, the Cal Poly club team.
The Blues rallied for four hits in the bottom of the ninth to salvage the third of a three-game season-opening summer collegiate baseball series at SLO Stadium to beat the San Luis Obispo Rattlers 8-7 on Sunday.
Designated hitter Ryan Brekke was 2 for 5 with an RBI and a key two-out single in the deciding inning, and relief pitchers Kevin Loudat and Greg Thompson combined to throw three complete innings.
All three players came courtesy of the Cal Poly club team — a non-varsity squad unaffiliated with the athletic department and made up of Cal Poly students that compete intercollegiately outside the NCAA.
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And Blues manager Chal Fanning said he added them to the roster Saturday night.
Infielder Nick Flair was struck by a kidney infection. The Mississippi State sophomore is expected to make a full recovery, but he is out for now, and the Blues are still waiting for nine others who were with their college teams at NCAA Regionals this past weekend to arrive in San Luis Obispo.
“Luckily we have Kyle Jury as one of the assistant coaches being the Cal Poly club team coach,” Fanning said. “If we didn’t have those club guys, we probably wouldn’t have won the game.”
After the Rattlers erased a 6-3 lead with a four-run rally to move in front in the top of the eighth, the Blues tied it with a run in the bottom of the eighth.
Catcher Cody Dufrene singled to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and after a strikeout and flyout, Brekke singled up the middle to keep the inning alive.
Will Maddox singled through the left side, and Zack Domingues drove in Dufrene for the winning run with a single to second.
“There was nothing flashy about it,” Fanning said. “We just grinded away at it and came out on top.”
The final run avoided the series going to extra innings for the second straight game. The Rattlers won 6-5 in 13 innings after a fireworks delay Saturday. Former Cuesta College and San Luis Obispo High standout and Chico State commit Michael Nieporte hit the game-winning single to right field.
On Sunday, the Blues prevented the three-game sweep and kept hope alive for a victory over the Rattlers in the season series. The teams will play three more games over the course of the season.
“That was a really good feeling not to let the Rattlers sweep us and get a chance to win the series,” Fanning said.