In a span of nearly three hours, the San Luis Obispo High and Paso Robles baseball teams tallied 11 innings, 10 hits, nine errors and showcased an exciting pitching duel. But something was missing.
Paso Robles’ Eli Vargas, however, took care of that problem in the bottom of the 11th inning. With the bases loaded and no outs, the senior smashed a walk-off sacrifice fly deep to right field to send in T.J. Durfee for the game-winning run in a 1-0 victory — handing the Tigers their first PAC 7 loss of the season Thursday afternoon at Barnhart Field.
“When I saw the outfielder going back,” Vargas said, “I knew it was far enough to score the guy from third.”
The play ended an exhausting day for the teams’ starting pitchers. Paso Robles’ Josh Ramirez and San Luis Obispo’s Davey Casciola both threw 10 effective innings. Ramirez had three strikeouts and gave up four hits and one walk on 112 pitches, and Casciola struck out eight batters and allowed six hits and two walks on 123 pitches.
“Their guy and our guy, for high school baseball, threw 10 shutout innings,” Paso Robles coach Derek Stroud said. “I’ve never seen that before. It was gutsy for both pitchers.”
But the game needed an ending.
In their final plate appearance, the Bearcats (12-7, 8-3 PAC 7) loaded the bases after Durfee got on with a fielding error, and both Kris Pequeno and Tanner Berry were hit by pitches from San Luis Obispo’s Louie Carlos, who came in to relieve on only one full day of rest after throwing a complete-game shutout win over the Bearcats on Tuesday.
Vargas walked up to the plate feeling confident.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play,” he said. “I didn’t want to do too much to the ball. I just tried to hit it to the right side, where I’m good at.”Paso Robles finally scored after stranding 10 runners. Bailey Gaither went 3 for 4, and Mac Stuart — the Bearcats’ starting left fielder — came on in the final inning to earn the win, thanks to two groundouts and a strikeout.
Paso Robles won despite committing six errors.
The Tigers (13-3, 10-1 PAC 7) left nine runners on base, as three of them reached third. San Luis Obispo loaded the bases in the top of the seventh but popped out three times in that inning. Marco Murillo had two of the Tigers’ four hits.
Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo will complete their three-game series today at SLO Stadium with seven games remaining for each team.“Every game is important to us,” Stroud said, “not just to catch up with them (the Tigers) but also to stay ahead of the other teams.”