ATASCADERO — Atascadero and Paso Robles faced off for game one of their two-game series on Wednesday afternoon, April 3, at Kidwell Park in a game that will go down as an instant classic. The game between the rivals saw three lead changes, two ties and ended with a Justin Vose walk-off home run for the Greyhounds who took the game 5-4.
It was the second walk-off in as many games between these two teams but with neither the Bearcats (9-8, 2-3 Mountain League) nor the Hounds (3-12, 2-5 ML) finding themselves in the position they wanted to be at this point in the season in the Mountain League, this game was all the more important for the players and fans because bragging right are as good as money in small-town discussions.
Atascadero entered the game on a three-game losing streak and with only one league win on the season. The Bearcats opened their league slate with a huge win over the San Luis Obispo Tigers, who were ranked No. 1 in the CIF’s Central Section, handing them their first loss of the season but have gone 1-3 since.
The Hounds produced some early offense in Wednesday’s game which is something they have struggled to do this season as they have often had to dig themselves out of early holes. A walk and a Vose double put two on and no out for Atascadero in the bottom of the first and both runs came into score. The first coming via a sacrifice
Paso Robles tied the game up in the top of the third inning on back-to-back RBI singles by CJ Ontiveros and Riley Swarthout after Taylor Bonham singled to open the inning and Jakob Wright drew a walk.
The game was not tied long, the Bearcats took the lead in the fourth inning following a Seth Maldonado 2-RBI single to center field, 4-2.
It was senior vs. senior on the mound as Cade Van Allen and Lucas Climer started for their respective teams. At 6-feet-6 Van Allen is a presence on the bump as he throws fastballs down at you like Zeus hurling lightning bolts from Mt. Olympus. The future Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunner pitched well giving up six hits and four earned runs in 4⅓ innings of work. Climer was also dealing and as always played with great emotion and intensity as the lefty only gave up one earned run and one hit over four innings.
The Hounds tied up the game in the bottom of the fifth scoring a run on another Bearcats error and the other on a Simonin single to right field setting the stage for another dramatic ending.
The last time these two teams faced off seven innings wasn’t enough to decide a winner as they played into the night finally finishing in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off hit by Paso Robles’ Ryan Harvel.
Wednesday’s game wouldn’t need extra innings or even a second at-bat in the seventh as Vose turned on the second pitch he saw and sent it past the outstretched arm of the Bearcat outfield landing safety in the grass behind the wall for a walk-off home run.
Vose has had a knack for the dramatic against the Bearcats in his time with the Hounds. Last year as a sophomore, Vose closed game three of an Atascadero sweep in Paso Robles in one of the most intense moments of the year.
“It is just that rivalry,” Vose said following the game. “Every year I just get so much adrenaline before the games and everyone is hyped up to beat them. It is really ironic because I said to my teammates that a walk-off would be fun today and it was me.”
The Hounds have been working a lot on their approach at the plate according to head coach Joe Davis.
“We have been talking about a better approach at the plate and not waiting if you get the pitch that you want right now,” Davis said. “So, we have been talking about pitch recognition and count recognition so that if you get what you want right off the bat then go get it.”
Davis’ message reached his players. Following the huge homer, Vose talked about his pitch selection saying, “I got my pitch, the second pitch. The first pitch was up and I was waiting on my pitch and I got it and I didn’t miss it.”
The Hounds and Bearcats will play game two of the series on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 at Barnhart Field, Paso Robles High School.