It sure seemed uncharacteristic of the Arroyo Grande High baseball team when the Eagles lost their first PAC 7 series of the season.
To date, they haven’t stopped proving that indeed, it was. Arroyo Grande claimed its 11th straight win Friday evening, edging host Nipomo 5-3.
Although the Eagles (15-3, 7-2) opened their league campaign by falling twice to Righetti in late March, they posted 22 runs to win the final game of that series, and proceeded to capture the program’s first Don Lugo Tournament title since 2003.
They haven’t lost since, sweeping a three-game series against Atascadero before polishing off the same versus the Titans.
“We really played poorly those first two games against Righetti,” Eagles coach Brad Lachemann said. “We kind of got some things squared away offensively and defensively, and then we went out and got the next game, 22 to (12). That kind of kick-started our whole season.”
Entering Friday, nine Arroyo Grande players had between 11 and 24 hits on the season.
“Down at that (Don Lugo) tournament is where our six, seven, eight and nine guys (in the lineup) really started swinging the bat,” Lachemann said. “That’s what’s kept us on top, even when we may not get big games from a three-four- or five-guy.
“We’re pretty solid, one through nine. We do get a lot of production off the back end of our lineup, which takes some of the pressure off.”
Kyle Raubinger earned the complete-game win on the mound, striking out seven batters, walking none and scattering nine hits.
“When we have Kyle on the mound, we always feel pretty good about our chances,” Lachemann said. “He commands three pitches really well, so we were just trying to manufacture runs.”
Raubinger agreed that the Don Lugo Tournament marked a turning point.
“That’s when we got in sync with each other,” Raubinger said. “We’re just trying to do the fundamental things and everything else will take care of itself.”
Brady Muth led Arroyo Grande at the plate Friday with two hits, including a double and an RBI.
Glenwood Lewis also had a pair of hits for the Eagles.
Counting toward the three-game sweep of Nipomo (10-10, 4-8) was the Titans’ automatic series-opening forfeit stemming from a benches-clearing altercation with San Luis Obispo the previous week.
Titans starter Ryan McNeil was solid in defeat, collecting seven strikeouts in a complete-game effort in his own right, walking one batter and yielding seven hits. Nipomo committed four errors.
“Ryan pitched a great game,” Titans coach John Stevens said. “We just made some mistakes that hurt us.”
Joe Gutshall and Kenton Garl each had two hits for Nipomo, with Gutshall driving in a run.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning as Muth singled to drive in Gabe Hernandez, but the Titans answered on a McNeil sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third that brought home Sean Shurtleff to tie the score.
In the top of the fourth, Arroyo Grande took back a one-run lead when Lewis scored on an error. Hernandez and Colton Haynes then scored for a 4-1 lead on another error, before Raubinger hit an RBI single to drive in Clark Goossen for a four-run inning and a 5-1 advantage.
In the bottom of the fourth, Cameron Epley belted an RBI double, scoring Garl to cut the lead to 5-2, before Gutshall singled to drive in Jeff McNeil in the bottom of the fifth to round out the scoring.
“They’re a very good team,” Stevens said of the Eagles, “and we’re young, but we’ve been starting to play better.”
Arroyo Grande will take on Pioneer Valley next before closing out the regular season with back-to-back three-game series against league-title contenders Paso Robles (12-10, 8-4) and San Luis Obispo (9-8-1, 6-3), last year’s league champion.
“Our goal at the start of the year was just to make sure the Paso series and the San Luis series meant something,” said Lachemann, who returned to the dugout after coaching the Eagles from 1996 to 2004. More and more, it looks like those series might end up determining the league champion.
“We’ve just got to stay consistent and I think we’ll have a pretty good chance,” Raubinger said.
Pioneer Valley 6, Paso Robles 2; Pioneer Valley 3, Paso Robles 2
The PAC 7 race is shaping up to go down to the wire after the Bearcats were swept.
The Bearcats had a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack but were unable to get the offense going in the opening-game loss.
Austin Swank was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI in the opener.
Jesse Horne added two hits and a run scored in the Bearcats’ late-game loss.
San Luis Obispo 7, Atascadero 3
Marco Murillo pitched five innings, allowing three runs on three hits and striking out three to get the win.
Scott Shields was 3 for 3 with a double and three RBI for the Tigers.
Dylan Candaele, Conor Mulvaney and Louie Summer each had two hits for San Luis Obispo.
Templeton 17, Morro Bay 9
Nolan Hildebrand was 4 for 5 with four RBI for Templeton (6-9, 2-4 Los Padres League).
Jonah Yamagata added three hits for the Eagles, while Spencer Macomber had two hits, three runs scored and picked up the win on the mound.
James Ralston added two doubles and three RBI for Templeton.
Sam Lebrecque hit a two-run home run for Morro Bay (1-5 LPL), while Tyler Duclos and Rico Caravalho each hit a double for the Pirates.
Cabrillo 12, Mission Prep 5
Kevin Laird was the only Mission Prep player with multiple hits, going 2 for 3 with an RBI.
North County Christian 12, Shandon 1, 5 innings
Keelan Willison was 3 for 4 with five RBI, including a two-run homer in the fourth inning for the Crusaders.
Taylor Brard pitched a complete game, striking out nine and allowing just two hits.
He also added a three-run home run for the Crusaders (10-0, 7-0 Coast Valley League), who are off to their best start in school history.
Caleb Katches had three hits, including a triple with an RBI, and Tyler Roth added two hits and two runs scored for North County Christian.
Julio Rodriguez scored the only run for the Outlaws (3-6, 3-4) on a Jose Reyes RBI groundout.
Tribune staff contributed to this report.