The San Luis Obispo Blues turned in a dominating performance against the California Expos on Saturday night with an 11-4 nonleague win and another notch in its winning streak.
High school senior and incoming Cal Poly freshman Robert Ay (1-0) gave up a few hits early but never saw an Expos player cross the plate during six innings of work. On the offensive side, 10 runs collected in the third and fourth innings put the Blues in cruise control for most of the game.
The win gave the Blues (13-4) its fifth win in a row, but the nonleague game offers little consolation. The Blues sit in eighth place in the California Collegiate League with a record of 2-3. All but two of the Blues remaining 26 games come against league opponents, culminating in the CCL Tournament, which begins July 31.
Player of the Game: Ay is still in high school, so he can only play weekend games. Luckily for Ay, game two of the three game series against the Expos was on Saturday. "Here's a player who's officially graduating from high school on the 23rd of this month," manager Jamie Clark said shaking his head in disbelief after the game. "He had very good command and control over his pitches. He was hitting his spots; his off-speed, his fast ball, curveball, change up. He was able to throw it when he wanted to where he wanted to."
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Ay gave up six hits, but allowed no runs and struck out two in six innings. With his parents in the front row, the Trabuco Canyon product used 71 pitches to keep the Expos offense in check all night. He did it with the help of his future teammate, Cal Poly catcher Brett Barbier.
"It's really cool because you got to build that relationship, it's super important to have that relationship between a catcher and a pitcher and to get that started early is really something you can't describe," Ay said after the game.
"My lovely parents were up here, Mike and Daina, they made the three-and-a-half hour drive to come up here and support me, which was awesome."
Local Players: Along with Ay, starters from around the area left their mark. Cuesta’ College's Garrett Giovannelli turned two double plays with his quick arm, added a hit and stole his team-leading 11th base. Barbier went 1 for 4 with an RBI and called a solid game behind the plate.
Turning Point: The Blues broke the game open in the bottom of the third inning. Oklahoma State’s Dustin Williams hit the hardest ball of the night for the Blues when he rocked a fastball over the center-fielder’s head that one-hopped the wall to bring home Nick King, who stole second base on the previous pitch. But the rest of the six runs in the inning were gifted to the Blues thanks to four Expos errors. The following inning, the Blues added four more runs, and the Expos finished with five errors.
Weird Play of the Game: In the ugly third inning, right fielder Ryan Sluder went from home plate to home plate on an inside-the-park home run. Sort of. Sluder, a top pro prospect from Oklahoma State, laid a bunt down the third base line meant to move over base runner Jimmy Brakka, but a wild throw from the Expos third baseman to first base followed by another wild throw by the second baseman gave Sluder the unconventional run scored.
Interesting Fact: Expos pitching coach Michael Garza is the younger brother of Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Matt Garza. Matt played for the SLO Blues in 2002.
Up Next: The Blues will finish its three-game series against the California Expos on Sunday at 1 p.m. before getting back into the CCL schedule with four in a row at home against the Santa Paula Halos and the Southern Cal Catch beginning Tuesday. Clark said he's confident moving forward because his roster is set and he feels the team is starting to gel.
"I'm so happy with this core of players that we have now. This is it," Clark said.