Aaron Crutchfield/Atascadero News • Atascadero High School alumnus Tanner Thompson puts the ball in play during Wednesday’s North County Indians game against Team Victory.
TEMPLETON — With the way the Team Victory pitcher was dealing on Wednesday, an early 4-0 deficit proved to be too much to overcome for the North County Indians in what ended up a 6-2 loss.
It was only the team’s second loss of the season against 15 wins.
“I hardly knew what to tell the guys,” manager Dan Marple said after the game.
The Indians split the two-game midweek series against Team Victory, based in the Santa Clarita Valley, after a 10-0 win on Tuesday.
“We’ve had some close games after big scoring outputs,” Marple said. “We were against a good ballclub and a good pitcher that goes nine innings. He was very effective, and he spotted his fastball and got ahead in the count, then threw the curveball and we were out in front of it.”
The Indians scattered three hits throughout the first five innings.
The team finally got something going in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Mike Lovingston led off the game with a triple to deep right-center field. Ryan Rasolowski singled Lovingston home, eventually stealing second and third base. But those steals came as the Indians went from no outs to two outs, and he was left stranded at third base with an inning-ending groundout to shortstop.
The Indians finished with seven hits, but struck out nine times. No Indian reached base via walk, either.
Tyler Kollman reached on an error in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Brian
Mundell, who had doubled with one out, went to third, but a flyout that was too short to score Mundell made it two outs, and a game-ending groundout to short was the final nail in the coffin.
Meanwhile, Team Victory got its offense rolling a bit early, tallying three hits, a sacrifice bunt and a walk in scoring two runs in the top of the first inning, which proved to be all the run support needed. Three more hits led to two more runs in the second inning.
After a shaky first two innings, spot starter Cole Mauter settled down and pitched three scoreless frames.
“He was a little nervous,” Marple said. “It was his first start. He’s been doing a good job for us in relief, pitching two, three or four innings at a time. But when you give the pitcher the ball and say ‘you’re the starter,’ sometimes they try to do too much, and that’s what I think happened.”
Mauter got the start because the Indians are playing 10 games in nine days, disrupting the pitching rotation. Marple said that after this weekend’s two doubleheaders, the pitching is basically set for the rest of the season.
Team Victory tacked on a pair of runs in the ninth for the final margin.
Despite the loss, the Indians are still in a position of only needing to win one of their last 14 games to clinch a winning record in their first season in the North County.
“When I looked at the start of the season at the games we had lined up, 15-2 would have been icing on the cake,” Marple said. “I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Tuesday’s game was a little more positive for the Indians with a 10-0 score.
“We played a much better team than the score indicated,” Marple said. “It was a fairly tight game until the fourth inning.”
Mundell had a bases-loaded ground-rule double in the fourth inning for the Indians. But the big blow was from Paso Robles’ Mac Stuart, who followed Mundell’s double with a three-run blast over the left-center-field fence. It was Stuart’s second home run of the season. He later added a double and finished the game 3-for-5 and just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
San Luis Obispo’s Louie Carlos started on the mound for the Indians. After squirming out of trouble in the first when he walked two and hit one batter, Carlos settled down to allow only two hits in seven strong innings. But it was back in the first inning when Carlos really had to bear down and do some pitching. With the bases loaded and one out, he was able to get an inning-ending double play.
“Louie seems to move the ball more when he is a bit tired,” Marple said. “As the pitch count rose, he became more effective.”
Atascadero’s Aaron Womack finished up the game on the hill throwing two scoreless innings. The Indians collected 14 hits with no errors.
The Indians’ weekend series include a doubleheader on Saturday against Neptune Beach Pearl, with the first game starting at noon. On Sunday, the Indians are set to host the Menlo Park Legends in a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.
All games are played at the Vineyard Athletic Park in Templeton. For more information, call 835-6135 or go to www.northcountyindians.com.
Meagan Friberg contributed to this report.