Baseball

SLO Blues navigate off-field issues to finish 2016 season with winning record

The San Luis Obispo Blues completed the 2016 season with a 24-20 overall record and placed seventh in the 12-team California Collegiate League.
The San Luis Obispo Blues completed the 2016 season with a 24-20 overall record and placed seventh in the 12-team California Collegiate League. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

All things considered, Clay Cederquist seemed pleased with the final results from his first summer coaching the San Luis Obispo Blues.

Wednesday night’s season-ending loss to the Conejo Oaks marked the conclusion of an up-and-down year for San Luis Obispo, one highlighted by a mid-season coaching change that unexpectedly put Cederquist in charge.

Though it likely wasn’t the head coaching opportunity he might have hoped for, Cederquist helped the Blues navigate the final three weeks of the season in impressive fashion.

They were mathematically in playoff contention until Tuesday, and finished the summer 24-20 overall and placed seventh in the 12-team California Collegiate League.

“Given this group of kids, I wasn’t surprised at all,” said Cederquist, who serves as an assistant coach at his alma matter, Sacramento State. “They’re a great group of kids who come from very good schools, so it’s in their nature to just show up and compete.”

San Luis Obispo was 11-11 when Cederquist took over June 30 following Jamie Clark’s resignation that stemmed from a player personnel dispute with the team’s front office. The Blues went 13-9 the rest of the way, a stretch that included two four-game winning streaks to keep the team within reach of the final playoff spot.

A good portion of that credit can be attributed to San Luis Obispo’s pitching staff.

Right-hander Korey Anderson, a junior from Western Carolina, tied for the CCL lead with a 5-2 record and owned a 3.34 ERA. Anderson’s final outing was a nine-strikeout performance Tuesday night in a 7-1 win against the Ventura Halos. He tied with former UCLA pitcher Matt Walker for the team lead with 48 strikeouts.

Texas Tech lefty Parker Mushinski was stellar out of the bullpen once he arrived on the Central Coast. A late addition following Texas Tech’s appearance in the College World Series, Mushinski allowed one earned run and six hits in 16 innings on the mound and was credited with three saves.

“It’s not just what guys did out here,” said catcher RJ Hassey, a SLO High School and Cuesta College graduate. “We’re with each other 12 hours a day, so you see guys in the weight room working hard and (in the) batting cages. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, and it was cool to see guys putting in work.”

Playing with the Blues for the fourth time in as many years, Hassey was among the team’s offensive leaders in 2016.

He hit .271 with 32 hits, 23 RBI and scored 19 runs in his first full summer since undergoing Tommy John surgery. Hassey plans to continue his baseball career next year at Division II Chico State.

Left fielder Wyatt Hogan proved to be San Luis Obispo’s top run producer. The junior from Hendrix College in Arkansas led the Blues in batting average (.313), hits (45), doubles (nine) and RBI (26) in his first year with the team.

Cederquist also praised outfielder Holden Morris, a junior from the University of Pennsylvania who tallied 10 hits in the final 10 games. Morris went 3 for 4, scored twice and drove in five runs during the Blues’ final victory Tuesday night.

“There in that last couple weeks, he pretty much carried us at the plate,” Cederquist said.

Cederquist wouldn’t speculate on who he thought might return to the program next summer, admitting all of his attention has been on the field in recent weeks. Clark said before the season started he spent time recruiting kids throughout the school year, and someone will need to take over those duties this offseason.

For now, Cederquist said he was content with the individual and collective development under his guidance.

“This kids got better, hands down, each and every day,” Cederquist said. “We made a playoff push there at the end and gave ourselves a chance.

“It didn’t fall our way, but they competed, and that’s all we can ask of them.”

SLO Blues 2016 season

Record: 24-20 overall

CCL: 16-15 (seventh place)

Leaders:

  • LF Wyatt Hogan, batted .313 with 26 RBI
  • RHP Korey Anderson, 5-2 with 48 strikeouts
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