Spring has officially sprung, which means baseball. However, unlike their major league counterparts, San Luis Obispo County players are in the midst of the playoff hunt.
The usual suspects are lining up in the Mountain League, with San Luis Obispo, Righetti and Arroyo Grande at the top.
In the Ocean League, Mission Prep holds a nine-game win streak and, along with Nipomo, is 2-0 in league play.
Paso Robles tops the Mountain League softball standings, followed by Atascadero and San Luis Obispo.
Morro Bay leads the Ocean League through three games.
There are about a month of league games yet to play, and with baseball — and softball — anything can happen. Here are some story lines and players to watch from across county baseball and softball.
SLO’s star seniors
San Luis Obispo seniors Brooks Lee and Cooper Benson have been heralded ever since they were freshmen.
And for good reason.
Each has committed to Division I schools — Arizona State for Benson and Cal Poly for Lee — and each is projected as top-50 high school picks in the MLB draft. But they aren’t the only players to watch on a seemingly perennially talent-rich team.
Several seniors are on a tear for the Tigers, including fellow Division I commit Emilio Corona. The Washington commit has two home runs on the season — five other Tigers have hit one.
Second baseman Wils Guy, leads the team with a .553 average and has scored 22 runs with 12 RBI. Dalen Righetti is hitting .400 with 11 RBI.
Brooks and Benson are second and third, respectively, in average on the team, attributing for a combined 31 RBI, 22 runs and 11 doubles.
Benson has yet to allow an earned run in 28 2/3 innings, totaling 49 strikeouts, and senior Carson Silacci is 4-1 on the year with a 1.24 ERA.
Paso Robles surprised the Tigers in the opening game of the league season with a 9-3 victory, accounting for San Luis Obispo’s (13-1, 5-1) only loss of the season.
Moving forward, SLO will be tough to beat. Barring a major collapse, the Tigers should make a deep run in the CIF-Central Section Division I playoffs.
Other teams in the Mountain League mix
Arroyo Grande has rebounded after a down year in 2018, when the team finished 10-12 in the PAC 8. The Eagles have started 5-1 in the Mountain League, with their only loss coming against Righetti.
The team returned top hitters from last year in seniors Nathaniel McCoy, Kadin Byrne and James Gilmet and junior Brady Lachemann.
The Bearcats shocked the Tigers to open league play but have since stalled and now sit at 2-2. Paso Robles lost Arizona State commit Hunter Barnhart, a junior who transferred to St. Joseph.
Senior Lucas Climer has stepped up the for Bearcats, leading the Mountain League with 62 strikeouts in 36 innings. Climer has struck out at least 10 in each of his three games this year and has held opponents to a .135 batting average against him.
Bearcat senior Riley Swarthout is hitting .400 with 10 runs, seven RBI and three doubles in 13 games, and sophomore Jakob Wright is hitting .372 with 12 stolen bases, 11 runs and six RBI.
Bearcats on deck
Paso Robles softball’s only loss in league play came against Atascadero, a 1-0 duel. The Bearcats (11-4, 6-1) won the rematch 5-1 on Friday behind a one-hitter by freshman Jaiden Ralston, who stifled the powerful Greyhound offense. Ralston has a 9-2 record and boasts a 0.71 ERA.
While Paso Robles doesn’t have a home run on the season, they are making contact and scoring runs. The Bearcats used small ball and timely hitting to beat Atascadero on Friday, scoring their five runs in the first three innings.
Senior Brooke Milder is hitting .400 with 12 RBI, 10 runs, four triples and three doubles, and 11 different players are hitting at least .300 for the Bearcats, who only have three seniors. Paso Robles is going to be good for a long time.
The Atascadero (11-5, 5-1) softball team is in second place in the Mountain League standings, thanks to power hitting and power pitching.
Junior ace Bailey Doherty was no stranger to tossing no-hitters last season. She has continued where she left off this season, no-hitting San Luis Obispo. Doherty has 190 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings, with a 12-3 record.
She’s doing it from the plate, too. The Cal Poly commit is hitting .396 and has three home runs on the year — senior Bailee Crawford has three homers, and fellow junior Claire Lohayza has two more. Lohayza has a .451 average with 14 runs, five doubles and four triples.
The Greyhounds were bounced out of the semi-finals of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 playoffs on a walk-off last season. Expect Atascadero to make a statement in the Central Section.
Players of note
Nipomo (7-5-1, 4-0), sits atop the Ocean League, paced by senior Ricky Iniguez, who is hitting .509 with seven doubles and two triples. Catcher Carmelo Hernandez is hitting .475 with 15 RBI, five doubles and a homer.
Senior Ricardo Rodriguez has been the Titans’ workhorse, tossing three complete games on the year. Rodriguez is 4-2 and has a 1.32 ERA over 37 innings.
Mission Prep’s (10-3, 2-1) Dylan Beavers leads the Ocean League offensive categories. The University of California commit has hit nine home runs and three triples, with a .548 average in 14 games.
The Eagles’ Ashley Daugherty has dominated the Los Padres League since she was a freshman. The change to a more competitive league hasn’t neutralized her effectiveness — just her win-loss record.
The Texas A&M commit is 6-4 after the move to the Mountain League, but has a 1.56 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched. Only about half of her 29 runs allowed have been earned (16). Daugherty has also hit two home runs on the year.
Templeton (7-4, 1-4) has another crop of young players on the rise. Sophomore Isabella Backer is hitting .364 with two homers, and freshman Izzy Cowne and Maddie George are hitting .348 and .333, respectively.
SLO (7-4, 4-2) has a Division I talent of its own. The Tigers will go as far as Oregon State commit Xiao Gin will take them.
The junior has a 0.89 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings. Gin is also hitting .391 with eight runs and a .600 on-base percentage.
Nipomo (6-5, 1-1) freshman Key-anna Pu’a is having a dominant year in the Ocean League. The freshman has a 1.43 ERA over 73 1/3 innings and has 122 strikeouts. Pu’a is hitting .475 with four home runs, while senior Lisette Coria is hitting .537 with 17 runs and Mimi Wolf is hitting .476 with 13 runs.