Paso Robles High senior Gary Ochoa waited all season long for a chance to swing the bat.
Playing behind standout shortstop Thomas Bernal, Ochoa had received limited playing time, striking out two in one inning on the mound and making one plate appearance with a run scored.
But when Bernal went down with an injury in Wednesday’s crucial game with the PAC 7 league title on the line, Ochoa got the chance he’d been waiting for.
Trailing 5-4 in the fourth inning, Ochoa’s solo home run tied the score and opened the flood gates as the Paso Robles baseball team claimed a 12-8 win over Arroyo Grande and the outright league championship.
“It was a true team effort today,” Bearcats coach Derek Stroud said. “Everybody that was called upon stepped up.”Even Bernal, who took a groundball to the face and was forced to leave the game with major swelling in his cheek, returned to pitch the final inning to earn the save and secure the title.
“It’s pretty swollen right now,” Stroud said of Bernal’s cheek. “Hopefully it’s not broken or anything. We’ll find out (today) but the swelling has at least slowed down and it didn’t get any worse.”
Mac Stuart was 3 for 5 with a double and two RBI for Paso Robles (17-10, 13-4), and Jesse Horne added three hits, including a home run.
Elias Stokes finished with two hits, including a home run and five RBI for the Bearcats, who hit three homers.
Two weeks ago, Paso Robles seemed like an outsider in the PAC 7 race, but with a three-game sweep of San Luis Obispo and taking the first two of a three-game set with Arroyo Grande (17-6, 9-5), the Bearcats won the league title going away.
“Going into the last two weeks against SLO and A.G., we were just hoping to stay above water and get into the playoffs,” Stroud said. “But the guys competed really well against San Luis Obispo and through these two games with A.G. They never gave up in any of the games and that’s a tribute to them.”
San Luis Obispo 7, Righetti 5
David Murillo was 2 for 2 with two doubles and three RBI to lead San Luis Obispo (11-11-1, 8-6 PAC 7).
Marco Murillo and Dylan Candaele had a hit and an RBI each, and Jon Breneman struck out two in a complete-game win.
Arroyo Grande 3, Nipomo 0
The Eagles clinched a CIF-Southern Section Division II playoff berth in a 25-22, 25-20, 25-14 win over Nipomo.
Michael Matosich had a match-high 10 kills.
Tanner Howard had a team-high seven digs for Arroyo Grande (11-10-1, 8-2 PAC 7).
Mission Prep 3, Channel Islands 2
The Royals edged Channel Islands 25-23, 25-23, 19-25, 22-25, 15-11 to conclude their regular season.
Chris Salvini had a team-high 14 kills, and Quinn Tanner added 11 blocks for Mission Prep (7-8).
Sean Robinson had team-highs in aces (eight) and assists (34), while Tucker Marsano added seven digs for Misson Prep, who awaits playoff seeding.
Arroyo Grande’s Matt McAustin shot a 2-under 70 at Cypress Ridge Golf Course to lead his team to an 11-stroke victory at the final PAC 7 regular-season tournament.
Arroyo Grande won the tournament after carding a 379 while Atascadero was second with 390. Righetti was third (391) while San Luis Obispo finished fourth (411).
McAustin teammate Mitch Martin finished in a three-way tie for second with Atascadero’s Austin Kaiser and Nipomo’s Rory Doll.
Kaiser was announced as the PAC 7 MVP after finishing with a 73.4 league average, according to Atascadero coach Sam DeRose.
“He’s been a four-year varsity starter here,” DeRose said of Kaiser. “It’s quite an achievement to finish this way in a league that’s been very strong this year. There are a lot of quality golfers in the league.”
SWIMMING & DIVING
Los Padres League Championships
Trent Popovich set a Los Padres Leage record in winning the boys 100 backstroke.
Popovich’s time of 55.85 seconds was one of two school records he broke, including the 100 butterfly in 56.10.
Elliott Kaser won the boys 100 freestyle in 51.83, while the 400 free relay of Kaser, Popovich, Tyler Fraser and Isaac Wilkie won in 3:31.77.
On the girls side, Laura Clark won the 200 free (2:00.58) and 500 free (5:19.27), while Kendall Swanson won the 100 breaststroke in 1:07.97.