Recently, North County Indians third baseman Bryce Cherry had to miss seven games because of a family obligation. During that stretch, the Indians went 3-4.
“We needed him in the lineup,” North County coach Dan Marple said. “Him being in the lineup makes everybody around him better.”
Cherry — the 2009 Tribune San Luis Obispo County Player of the Year from Atascadero High — returned over the weekend.
On Wednesday night, he proved his worth by hitting one of the Indians’ three home runs in a 10-7 win over the San Luis Obispo Rattlers at Templeton’s Erb Field in the first meeting between the two summer collegiate baseball teams.
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The loss ended the Rattlers’ six-game winning streak.
Mike Livingston and Aaron Ashston also hit homers for the Indians (19-5), who stayed in control even after the Rattlers (25-13) tied the score at 4 in the fourth inning. Ashston went 3 for 4 with a homer and a double, Tyler Kollmann went 2 for 3 with a triple and two runs scored and Ryan Raslowsky finished with two hits and scored once.
“We came in and we were aggressive and swung at good pitches, putting balls in play,” said Cherry, the No. 5 batter. “That paid off for us. We just did a good job one through nine, you know, hitting the ball hard.”
The Indians, a first-year summer collegiate team that only plays at home in Templeton, took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning — thanks in part to solo homers by Ashston and Cherry.
The Rattlers, however, responded with a four-run fourth to tie it, highlighted by a two-run double by Kyle Crist. Trevor Nathanson and Scott Shields also each had a run-scoring hit in that inning.
“Our guys have done a good job battling back all year,” Rattlers coach Aaron Levin said. “I always feel like we can put together a good inning. They feel like that as well, putting together those good at-bats and getting back into the game. We’ve done that all year. I had no doubts that we can get back into the game.”
But the Indians didn’t panic. With Kollmann’s standup RBI triple, North County supplied three more runs in the fourth to take back the lead at 7-4. That was followed by three combined runs apiece in the sixth and seventh, helping the Indians preserve the win despite the Rattlers scoring a run in each of their final three innings.
Shields hit the game’s fourth homer in the eighth for San Luis Obispo.
“This was a good test for us, playing a very, good quality team,” Marple said. “To make it more interesting, it was an intra-county kind of a rivalry. We only play them one time but I think it sets up a terrific rivalry in the future.”
North County held on to the win with solid pitching. Starter Sean Safko pitched five innings with six strikeouts, and Cole Mauter relieved for 3 2⁄3 innings before Scott Kaul closed the game in the ninth after inducing the final batter to a pop out.
“The (pitching) staff did a good job,” Cherry said.