For a guy who didn’t pitch at all last year, San Luis Obispo High baseball player Garrett Giovannelli looked pretty comfortable on the mound Friday.
Known for his quickness at shortstop and stellar hitting in leading the PAC 7 last year with a .456 average, Giovannelli found his groove on the hill against Arroyo Grande, tossing a complete game shutout in a 3-0 victory at Sinsheimer Stadium.
The Eagles (3-3-1, 2-1) took the first two games of the series this week 11-2 and 5-3, respectively.
By mixing up his fastball, slider and curveball, Giovannelli had the Eagles’ hitters baffled, often getting them to whif f using of fspeed pitches on two-strike counts.
He stuck out seven batters and allowed just three hits and two walks while doing his best to fill a void left by three standout pitchers who graduated on last year’s 21-7 squad, including The Tribune’s player of the year, Marco Murillo.
“(Giovannelli) is just an athlete,” said Brian Wong, the Tigers’ first-year head coach. “He did a great job for us on the mound, and we didn’t make many mistakes today as a team like we did our first two games against them.”
Providing the offense for the Tigers (4-7, 2-4), sophomore Brandon Mallory sparked the scoring with an RBI double, an arching shot over the head of Eagles left fielder Grant Alton in the second inning that scored Joey Benadiba.
San Luis Obispo first baseman Domenic Fountain, who had an infield single, then scored the second run of the inning on a wild pitch to put the Tigers ahead 2-0.
The Eagles had their chances in the game, but couldn’t capitalize due to Tigers’ catcher R.J. Hassey, who was instrumental in two plays that caught Arroyo Grande baserunners to end innings. In the first, with runners at first and third, Hassey gunned down Eagles first baseman Dylan Azevedo trying to steal second.
That left Arroyo Grande centerfielder Chris Davidson stranded at third after Davidson led off the inning with a line drive double to left, one of his two hits on the day.
Then in the fourth inning, also with runners at first and third with two outs, Hassey backhanded a low pitch from Giovannelli and whipped a throw to first, catching Alton off guard and forcing him into a rundown.
During the pickle, noticing Arroyo Grande shortstop Ryan Teixeira sneaking off the bag at third toward home, Tigers’ first baseman Domenic Fountain fired the ball to third and got the tag on Teixeira to end the inning.
San Luis Obispo infielder Nick Hill, playing shortstop in place of Giovannelli on Friday, knocked in the Tigers’ third run in the fifth inning on a well-placed hit over the second baseman to right.
Hill scored freshman Jeremy Jess, who found the gap in left field for a line drive double earlier in the inning.
In the most dramatic play of the game, Arroyo Grande right fielder Paul Ormonde smashed into Fountain, who reached his glove into the basepath to catch a throw at first that sailed wide.
But Ormonde got the worst of the collision against Fountain, who was a standout linebacker on the football team. Arroyo Grande coaches argued that Fountain impeded Ormonde’s path to the base, but to no avail.
Hassey said that a difference in the game, compared with earlier ones this season, was that the Tigers played relaxed.
“We were just having fun out there,” Hassey said. “We were just loose, and we just let it go and that’s what we need to keep doing.”
Arroyo Grande Coach Brad Lachemann said his starter, Kyle Brown, a 6-foot-4 lefty who pitched six innings, was solid.
“He really threw a good game,” Lachemann said. “We just didn’t get any runs for him. We have to score at least three, and it just didn’t happen. But winning two of three against SLO is a very good series because they’re a good team.”