San Luis Obispo freshmen Brooks Lee and Cooper Benson have been playing on the same baseball team since they were 7 years old.
And not just any team. In 2013, their Santa Ynez Titans youth baseball team won the 12U National Championship. A few years later, the pair of best friends are continuing their success at the next level — with Benson on the mound and Lee at the plate.
On Tuesday, in Game 2 of a pivotal PAC 8 series against Arroyo Grande, both played lights out.
Benson blew his fastball past the Arroyo Grande hitters all afternoon. The left-hander struck out seven, all in the first three innings, and gave up two hits in five innings of work.
Lee, along with the rest of the hot Tigers’ bats, set the tone early and evened the series at 1-1 with a dominating 10-3 win.
San Luis Obispo (15-5, 10-1 PAC 8) came out with some extra juice to start as a result of Tuesday’s 12-11 loss to Arroyo Grande (14-5, 8-3 PAC 8).
“Yesterday, just watching it from an outside perspective, seeing how good of hitters they were, I just really wanted to pound the zone and keep the count on my side,” Benson said. “After that first inning, it felt good.”
Benson struck out the side to start the game, and San Luis Obispo’s batters did damage in the top of the second inning when Lee’s two-RBI double helped them get out to a 5-0 lead.
“I have never in my life scored 11 runs and lost,” San Luis Obispo coach Brian Wong said of Tuesday’s loss. “We made five errors on defense, three base running mistakes and messed up three sacrifice bunts. We swung that bats well again. We scored 10 runs, the exact same thing, we just didn’t make all those mistakes.”
But the freshmen did make a couple of freshman mistakes.
Benson only gave up two hits, but one was a three-run home run to Arroyo Grande’s Jake Shusterich on what Benson said was a bad pitch right down the middle. And Lee tried to stretch a single into a double, causing an inning-ending pickle.
“Regardless of how much talent they have physically, they are still freshman, and they are still learning, which is great,” Wong said. “But they are getting better, and they are learning every week, and they are very coachable.”
The switch-hitting Lee is second on the team in hitting with a .406 average. Benson, who hasn’t been hitting great, went 2 for 3 with two doubles.
“I’m kind of used to this pitching,” Lee said. “I have been hitting off Cooper for a while, and he throws like 90. Cooper has always led every team he has been on, and I have always been there for him. So it’s really fun.”
Wong said Lee has a good strike-zone presence.
“I think he maybe has one or two strikeouts all season, so he puts the ball in play every time,” Wong said.
Looking ahead to Friday’s series finale at 7 p.m. at San Luis Obispo, Lee said he wants to make sure to focus on playing hard and fair, a reference to a play late in the game where Arroyo Grande’s Kale Varvel was ejected after the umpire determined his slide into second base was illegal.
“We don’t want to get caught up in all the trash talking,” Lee said. “We don’t want it to get into our heads. We just want to play a clean game and get that dub.”
Both teams are expected to start their aces. San Luis Obispo will go with Jeremy Jess, who smashed a home run over left field on Wednesday. Shusterich, who has two home runs in the last two games, should be on the mound for Arroyo Grande.