College Sports

SLO Blues rally, end their skid against Santa Barbara Foresters

San Luis Obispo’s Niko Pacheco dives back to second base as Santa Barbara’s A.J. Balta had trouble handling the throw.
San Luis Obispo’s Niko Pacheco dives back to second base as Santa Barbara’s A.J. Balta had trouble handling the throw.

The San Luis Obispo Blues finally figured out a way to slow down Dillon Dobson and the Santa Barbara Foresters.

The Appalachian State junior who had hit two home runs and four doubles with seven RBI in the teams’ first three meetings this season — all Santa Barbara wins — was held hitless Thursday, and San Luis Obispo scored two runs in the eighth inning to come from behind and win a summer collegiate baseball game, 4-3, at SLO Stadium.

“I’m just really proud of our kids for how they responded,” said Blues coach Chal Fanning, whose team lost 10-1 to the Foresters the night before. “I don’t think they’ve been giving themselves enough credit, and they turned the corner and played a much better ball game.”

Dobson drew a walk in the first inning and came around to score on Jeremy Montalbano’s two-run double, but finished 0 for 3 as four Blues pitchers combined to limit the Foresters — who outscored San Luis Obispo 18-5 in their three wins — to just one run and five hits in the final eight frames.

Third baseman Ryan Long was 3 for 5 with the game-winning RBI and a run in his home debut for San Luis Obispo, a day after making his first appearance with the Blues in their 10-1 loss at Santa Barbara.

Long was the starting third baseman on a Texas Tech team that made it to Omaha but lost its first two games at the College World Series. The sophomore from Crandall, Texas, was the designated hitter Wednesday but returned to the hot corner and hit leadoff Thursday.

“It’s been a ride,” he said, “but it’s been a lot of fun. I just want to get a little better every day.” He got a bit of luck with the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a tie ballgame, when he hit a tailor-made double-play grounder to second base, but Santa Barbara first baseman A.J. Balta dropped the throw, allowing Long to reach and pinch runner Andrew Schmidt to score.

“I didn’t see him bobble it,” Long said, “It was just a hard 90 (-foot run), playing the game hard.”

It was the first time in four games the Blues (18-7, 13-6) held a lead over their CCL Central Division rivals. Texas A&M junior Andrew Vinson pitched a perfect ninth, including two strikeouts, to earn the save and close within three games of the Foresters (19-4, 17-4) in the league standings.

“That’s a really good club over there,” said Fanning, whose team faces Santa Barbara four more times this season. “We need to feel really good about what we did tonight and see if we can continue being consistent with it.”

Oklahoma sophomore Alec Hansen got the win on the mound, allowing one run on two hits and two walks while striking out four in two innings.

Long’s teammate at Texas Tech, sophomore left-hander Ty Damron, made his Blues debut on the mound, allowing the first two runs in the opening frame but settling down to strike out a pair in three innings.

Tucker Forbes, a 6-foot-9 sophomore from UCLA, followed with three innings of hitless relief, allowing just one baserunner on a walk and striking out four.

“He hasn’t pitched at UCLA yet … and for him to come out and give us three innings was really crucial,” Fanning said.

After falling behind 2-0, the Blues got one back in the third when catcher Tyler Floyd — another Texas Tech product making his first SLO Stadium appearance — led off by reaching on an error and scoring on Jacob Hoyle’s single to right field.

That was the lone run San Luis Obispo mustered off Santa Barbara starter Dylan Bein, who struck out seven in just 3 2⁄3 innings.

The Blues struck out 13 times in the first six innings, falling behind 3-1 in the seventh on a run-scoring single from Ford Stainback.

But Long answered right back by ripping a double to right field to lead off the bottom half before taking third on a passed ball and scoring on another wild pitch in the same at-bat.

In the eighth, San Luis Obispo drew two walks and tied the score when Santa Barbara reliever Ryan Helsley threw Joel Atkinson’s bunt attempt into foul territory in right. Taylor Anderson scored, Schmidt moved to third and Atkinson took second.

After an intentional walk to Mitchell Williams, Long’s sharp grounder on the seventh pitch of the at-bat provided just the right amount of luck the Blues needed to earn a win over the Foresters.

“We were opportunistic,” Fanning said, “and we capitalized when we needed to.”