A crucial piece to the Paso Robles High baseball team’s run to a league title in 2014 was senior PAC 8 Pitcher of the Year Paul Andersen’s ability to mix his pitches, throw them for strikes and let his defense do the rest of the work.
First-year varsity starter Jeff Neumann and the Bearcats are using the same recipe for success to start 2015.
Neumann allowed just one hit in five innings, and Paso Robles scratched across the only run it needed against Templeton standout Mac Lardner on a passed ball to beat the Eagles 1-0 on Tuesday in Paso Robles.
“Our goal is to score runs, we don’t care how,” said Bearcats coach Derek Stroud, whose team is coming off a 20-win campaign. “(Lardner) is arguably the best pitcher in the county, so we knew we weren’t going to get a lot of hits off him.”
Neumann, a junior, improved to 2-0 on the year as Paso Robles moved to 4-0 overall. He had only one strikeout against Templeton (2-4), but has yet to allow an earned run in two starts.
“I was just trying to throw strikes,” Neumann said. “I’ve got a great defense behind me, so I knew they were going to back me up if I could just hit my spots and make routine plays for the team.”
Lardner (1-1), also a junior who verbally committed to Gonzaga over the offseason, struck out nine in his first six-inning stint of the season. The Los Padres League Pitcher of the Year as a freshman, he threw 93 pitches, allowing two hits, two walks and a hit batter in falling to 1-1 on the year.
After allowing a leadoff single to Justin Davis, Lardner threw first-pitch strikes to the next 18 batters. The first two batters reached in the first inning, including a walk to reigning Tribune County Player of the Year Bailey Gaither, but Lardner ended the first with swinging strikeouts on an 84-mph fastball and a 73-mph curveball.
“A lot more strikeouts means a higher pitch count, but if they come, they come,” said Lardner, who went 15-4 in his first two seasons. “I’m just trying to make my pitches. My fastball has gotten better this year, my changeup has been really good and my curveball has been my out pitch.”
Gaither reached base in all three of his at-bats, drawing the first-inning walk after falling behind 0-2. The senior reached on an error in the third and singled to shortstop in the fifth.
He was batting in the fifth when senior Kade Ford, who had reached base on a dropped third strike to start the inning, came around to score on a passed ball for the game’s lone run. Senior reliever Jonathan Baldwin came on in the sixth inning, striking out four to earn the two-inning save.
Shane Wyatt, Austin Alarcon and Justin Altamirano singled for Templeton, which never had more than four batters hit in an inning and recorded outs on three consecutive pitches in the fourth inning.
“That’s just not a good approach,” Eagles coach Brad Macomber said of the three-pitch frame. “When you’re facing a guy that doesn’t throw hard and throws a bunch of offspeed, you’ve got to make him throw a five-pitch at-bat or more every time. That’s the mental approach that we talked about and will get better at.
“But I’ve got to give Jeffrey Neumann credit. Jeffrey Neumann is the one that mixed it up and made us look that bad. You don’t have to throw the ball 90 to get people out.”