FRESNO — The Atascadero Greyhounds’ season ended Saturday afternoon, May 18, with a loss to Bakersfield-Highland in the CIF Division 3 Baseball Championship at Fresno State’s baseball stadium 3-0. The Hounds’ amazing playoff run came up just short as their bats ran out of magic and they could only muster two hits in the game. Atascadero came into the title game averaging 10 runs per a game in their last four but could not find their rhythm on Saturday but still battled to the last out.
The Hounds entered the D3 playoffs as a No. 12 seed with a 9-17 record and were as unlikely a team as any to make a run at the title but a first-round victory over the No. 5 seed in Reedley, 5-3, sent the Hounds into the quarterfinals with a clear path to the championship game. Atascadero had a little luck on their side as well, they played Bakersfield-North in the second round who was only two days removed from a 10-inning game against the No. 4 seed in Mission Prep. Atascadero teed off on North who used both their top pitchers in the previous game forcing one kid to throw over to first base 11 consecutive times because he seemingly did not have confidence in his pitches to home plate.
Atascadero beat up the Stars 19-1 and then, as a 12 seed, hosted a CIF semifinal game against their North County rival, the Templeton Eagles. Atascadero beat the Eagles 4-3 at home to advance to their first-ever CIF title game in baseball.
Highland was the highest seeded team that the Hounds faced in the playoffs and it wasn’t overpowering pitching or powerful offense that beat the Hounds rather it was just solid defense and timely hitting.
Junior lefty Justin Vose got the start on the mound for the Hounds and pitched well keeping his team in the game into the late innings even while they struggled at the plate. Vose worked 4 2/3 innings only giving up two earned runs on five hits but did walk six which is eventually what came back to hurt Atascadero.
Both teams remained knotted at zeros through the first three innings before the Scots finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Vose issued a walk to lead off the inning and the runner ended up on second after a passed ball went to the backstop. The next Highland batter singled to centerfield scoring the runner from second to give Highland a 1-0 lead.
A leadoff single and another walk in the fifth inning gave the Scots two more baserunners and again they capitalized with timely hitting this time singling with two outs to score another run. The Scots added one more run in the inning on a wild pitch from Evyn Lade who came in to replace Vose and that would be all they needed as they beat the Hounds 3-0.
The Hounds were never able to get more than one baserunner on in any inning but did play some fantastic defense. Vose got himself out of a jam in the second inning that had runners on second and third with no outs by picking off the runner at third and then striking out the next two batters. In the following inning, centerfielder Tyler Chapman made a beautiful diving play to his right that gave the Hounds a temporary jolt of energy.
After the conclusion of the postseason, the Hounds finish the year at 12-18 as Division 3 runner-ups in Joe Davis’ first season as skipper. The Hounds will graduate some key players and pitchers in Cade Van Allen and Lade but have some strong young arms and another year of development for Vose to look forward to next year.