ATASCADERO — All the high school campuses across the county were empty this week as the schools got either a week or two weeks off for spring break. With Major League Baseball starting last week and America’s favorite pastime fresh in everyone’s mind, it was the perfect time for the Annual Easter Baseball Classic Tournament at Atascadero High School and Alvord Field. Per the literature on the program, the tournament began in 1968 and was known as the “Vince Reif Tournament” for many years until it was eventually changed to the Easter Baseball Classic sometime in the late 70s.
Atascadero invited eight teams to compete in the three-day tournament, some local and some from as far away as Long Beach. Coast Union, Santa Ynez, Dublin, St. Anthony, Rancho Mirage, Mountain House, and Castro Valley high schools were in attendance and they were divided into the orange division and the grey division.
Group play began on Monday and ran into Tuesday with the championship rounds being played Wednesday afternoon. In their first game of the tournament, the Greyhounds played St. Anthony High School and won thanks to a big, five-run second inning and some timely pitching from Nathan Mueller. The Hounds would not add any more runs but Mueller also did not surrender any while pitching and Atascadero won 5-2.
“It was good, it makes you comfortable when you have a lead up there,” Mueller said after the game. “I loaded the bases one time but I felt good and confident with our hitting so I felt good pitching and relaxed.”
In their second game on Monday Atascadero faced Dublin High School, the eventual tournament champion. The Hounds shuffled their starting line-up and played with almost an entirely new infield in their second game.
“A lot of it is guys who haven't been getting a lot of reps early on,” Greyhound Head Coach Jonathon Thornhill said regarding the moves. “We can get them reps in situations like these because at the end of the day these games don't mean really anything.”
The Gaels jumped out on the Hounds early and kept the pressure on the entire way ending the game via the ten-run-rule in the fifth inning, 11-1.
Atascadero played the tournament as Jekyll and Hyde — when in the lead, their dugout was loud, full of energy, and intimidating to opposing teams, but as soon as they got behind, it was nothing but crickets and the confidence of the team visibly plummeted. This was no more apparent than in their last game.
After dismantling Coast Union 19-0 on Tuesday, the Hounds scored 14 runs in the first inning (mostly walks). Atascadero grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the third-place game against Castro Valley and held it through five innings. Nolan Meredith started on the mound for the Hounds and pitched a gem, throwing four hitless, shutout innings before handing the ball off to senior Shane Johnson.
Johnson walked the first two batters of the sixth inning, and then a bunt loaded the bases. Two batters later, the Trojans hit a grand slam over the left field fence and Atascadero waved the white flag. The Hounds lost the game via the ten-run-rule in an inning that they came into leading. Atascadero lost the game 11-1 and took fourth place in the Easter Classic.
Senior right fielder Christian Morgan and Jeremy Asuncion led the Greyhounds offensively throughout the tournament. In the first three games, Morgan went 5-for-8 with 3 RBI and a double while Asuncion (did not play against Coast Union) went 5-for-6 with 3RBI and a double.
The Greyhounds are currently 7-6 overall and 3-3 in PAC 8 with a big series coming up against the Bearcats next week. Atascadero will host Paso Tuesday and Friday and 4:30 p.m. and will play at Barnhart field in Paso on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.