Series likely to determine Mountain League champion

The Paso Robles boys’ baseball team is off to the hottest start in the last five years and will play their biggest series of the season this week when they take on the undefeated Arroyo Grande Eagles. AG is 18-0 this season, ranked no. 1 in Division 2 of the Central Section, and the unquestioned favorites to win the Mountain League. However, the Bearcats are 8-1 in league, 14-3 overall, and ready to give the Eagles their toughest test of the season.

“The pressure is on them. They are the team that is 18-0, they are the team that everybody is picking to win, they are the team that is supposed to win,” Bearcats head baseball coach Jonathan Thornhill told the Paso Robles Press. “They are the team that is number one in D2 and so on and so forth. For us, we aren’t supposed to be the team that beats them; as far as I am concerned, our guys are going to come out and play some baseball. If we play the way we are capable of playing, with a little chip on our shoulders, I think it will be a good week for us. We have got some fighters, we have some guys that have done this at a higher level on their travel and summer ball teams that they have been a part of, and they live for moments like this.”

The series begins on Wednesday afternoon in Arroyo Grande and will conclude following a Saturday doubleheader in Paso Robles.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

The strength of the Bearcat baseball team this season is unquestionably their starting pitching and the depth of their rotation. As a team, Paso Robles has an earned run average of 2.08 through 17 games. However, more than half of the 23 players on the team can pitch and are led by their ace Carson Turnquist. In six appearances this season, Turnquist has a sub-one ERA at .91 with a 5-0 record.

“The bread and butter for us is this pitching staff. Having an ERA of 2.08 through 17 games is pretty impressive. We’ve got some guys. Carson Turnquist, Tanner O’Farrell, Dylan Allison. Jakob Wright [Cal Poly commit] is coming back healthy and is ready to roll. Austin Taylor has been a surprise guy for us that has really stepped up as a junior.”

Wright being healthy and available could be crucial in the series this weekend and prove to be the difference in close games down the stretch.

While the Bearcats’ defense and pitching have been excellent, their offense hasn’t been far behind. To this point in the year, Paso Robles has scored 161 runs, including 49 in three games last week, and has a positive point differential of 89 runs. In fact, with only nine regular-season games to go on the season, the crimson ‘cats have eight players batting over .320 (with at least 15 plate appearances) on the season, with six of those batting over .400.

Paso Robles can hit it over the fence or beat you at small ball. Altogether, the team has recorded 24 doubles this season and 11 home runs, and recorded 53 stolen bases. The hottest bats on the team currently belong to Turnquist, Bryson Hoier, and Chase Stratman. Turnquist now has an average of .442 with 26 RBI, fresh off a grand slam against Atascadero, and three long balls. Hoier is hitting .409 with 13 RBI and four dingers, while Stratman has the highest average on the team, batting .512 with 9 RBI.

Saturday’s doubleheader will more than likely decide who gets the crown in the Mountain League. The first pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Barnhart Field, with the second game starting at 2 p.m.