Dylan Lewis was exactly where he wanted to be.
The Paso Robles High School junior stepped to the plate Tuesday against Righetti with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning and a chance to win the game. All he had to do was get a hit off Righetti’s star senior pitcher Matt Sauer, a Major League prospect who drew an army of scouts armed with radar guns to Barnhart Field with his 95 mile-per-hour fastball.
With a runner on second and one out, Sauer intentionally walked leadoff hitter Mark Armstrong hoping to force Lewis to hit into an inning-ending double play.
“I was just thinking, ‘I want to be the guy. I’m ready,’ ” Lewis said.
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Sauer delivered a high fastball, and Lewis roped it though the infield. The Righetti left fielder was playing in, but a bobble allowed Jeff Giroux to score easily from second base to give the Bearcats a dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 win.
The Bearcats emptied the dugout to swarm Lewis.
“Best win of the season so far,” Lewis said. “It was a hell of a feeling.”
While most of the Bearcats struggled with Sauer’s power, Lewis looked comfortable at the plate all game long against the 6-foot-4 gunslinger. In four plate appearances, Lewis had a single, a walk and a double to go along with the game-winner.
“He’s one hell of a pitcher,” Lewis said. “We just put up the bats, ran the pitch count up. He made some mistakes, we made some mistakes and we just capitalized on it.”
Paso Robles head coach Derek Stroud said the team cranked up the speed on the pitching machine and worked on shortening swings in practices leading up to the game to prepare for the big pitcher.
“Basically, our goal was to stay to stay close to them and make him work, and hopefully at the end you might get a chance to get him,” Stroud said.
That obviously paid off for Lewis, but he’s been producing all season from the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Lewis has a team-high .452 batting average and 25 RBI this season.
“He rose to the occasion and got the clutch hits. Good for him,” Stroud said.
Sauer opened up the scoring with a two-run home run to put Righetti on top in the first inning. The Warriors went up 3-0 in the top of the fourth before a passed ball scored a Bearcat run to make it 3-1. After a leadoff double by Lewis, he was driven home by Will Stroud in the bottom of the sixth inning on a chopper. A squeeze bunt later in the inning by Oscar Rendon tied it at 3-3.
With the win, Paso Robles (20-5, 15-1 PAC 8) extends it’s PAC 8 lead to two games over Righetti (19-6, 13-3 PAC 8) with two more games left in the series. Game 2 will be played Wednesday in Santa Maria.
“Great game, but we are going to have to be ready to go tomorrow,” Derek Stroud said. “You know they are going to be ready.”
▪ Righetti played without Jaden LyBurtus (.362, 4 home runs), who was sidelined with an injury.
▪ Paso Robles sophomore Lucas Climer got the win in relief of sophomore Ryan Harvel (5IP, 6H, 1K), going two innings that included striking out Sauer in the top of the seventh.