It took 11 innings and more than three hours to decide a winner in a wild California Collegiate League matchup between the San Luis Obispo Blues and the Neptune Beach Pearl on Friday night.
Despite a nine-strikeout performance by Blues starting pitcher Brenden Nail, the Neptune Beach Pearl were able to score enough runs to claim a 5-4 win in the first game of a three-game series at SLO Stadium.
With the bases loaded in the top of the 11th inning, Kyle Pate walked the Pearl's Orlando Garcia to score the winning run from third.
Western Carolina’s Nail threw 105 pitches and struck out nine in 5⅔ innings for the Blues. Reliever Jackson Sigman threw 4⅓ innings in relief and struck out five.
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Blues first baseman Dustin Williams led off the bottom of the eighth inning and turned on an inside pitch, crushing it over the right field wall, turning the game in the process. Williams' third home run of the season tied the score at 4 and kept the Blues alive.
Along with drawing a walk, Garcia also had a two-run single to open the scoring in the top of the second inning. After the Pearl grabbed another run in the top of the third, the Blues put two on the board, the second coming when Oklahoma State’s Ryan Sluder sent a blooper over the second baseman's head.
The loss snapped the Blues’ (23-9, 11-7 CCL) three-game winning streak.
Controversial Call: Williams drew a walk, then stole second base in the 10th inning, putting Tanner Gardner at the plate. Gardner hit a looping fly ball, and charging Pearl center fielder JB Moss made what the umpires deemed an incredible diving catch. Blues manager Jamie Clark wasn’t so sure. Clark was on the field for about five minutes between innings arguing the call.
Key Play: Left fielder Gardner made a crucial error in the 11th when he slipped and fell on a routine base hit. The error put a Pearl player on second base. Later in the inning, a diving play by Sluder that slipped out of his glove loaded the bases for Garcia. That’s when Pate walked home the winning run.
Crazy Play of the Game: SLO's Quinn Walbergh ripped a triple to wall in the bottom of the ninth inning. On the very next pitch, he tried to steal home but was easily tagged out. Left standing at the plate was Sluder, who leads the Blues with a .373 batting average.
Local Look: Cal Poly catcher Brett Barbier had a strong game despite the loss. The junior Mustang gunned down two Pearl runners on steal attempts and went 2 for 5. Thanks to his laser arm and .342 batting average, he was selected to the CCL All-Star team last week.