Santa Maria looked like a team playing its first ball game of the season Monday.

Santa Ynez did not. 

Hence, the Pirates played better on defense and generated more offense than the Saints, scoring a 9-0 win in Santa Maria in a game against former Los Padres League foes. 

Santa Ynez junior Tyler Rasmussen started for the Pirates and didn't allow a hit over three innings while striking out five. Santa Maria's Luis Guerrero had the lone hit for the Saints in the fourth inning. Victor Heredia relieved Rasmussen and threw two innings before Logan Ast closed the game out. 

Santa Ynez coach Warren Dickey was happy the Pirates were able to get the game in after a slew of rainouts in the early part of February. The same could be said for new Santa Maria coach Mike Roberson, whose Saints were finally able to get their first game of the season.

Monday's game was originally scheduled for last Friday.

In Monday's contest the Pirates relied on their longtime combination for winning baseball.

"You know us, we're built on pitching and defense," Dickey said. "I think our energy was sapped today. I'm not going to use it as an excuse, but we didn't have good at-bats early. Their kid (Santa Maria starter Adrian Domingues) did a good job of keeping us off-balance. And our energy level wasn't there on offense. We took advantage later on and our pitching kept us in it, we kept rolling innings over.

"Hopefully we'll play tomorrow to get that rhythm going. We need to play. Please keep the rain away."

Santa Ynez scored once in the top of the first, then tacked on four runs each in the fourth and sixth innings. 

Vic Heredia, the Pirates' leadoff hitter, had two hits, scored three times and drove in a run.

The Pirates needed just five hits to score their nine runs. The Saints committed three errors, but Santa Ynez batters also drew seven walks and four of those baserunners came around to score. 

Heredia started the game with a flyball to right field that resulted in a two-base error against Santa Maria. He came around to score the game's first run on Cole Knightley's sacrifice fly.

"I don't want to get Heredia's head too big," Dickey said playfully. "But he's been a real Godsend, especially with Cole down right now. He throws strikes, knows how to play the game and doesn't try to do too much. He's a table-setter for us... and he's only a puppy." 

Knightley, the reigning LCCN All-Area MVP, missed the start of the season with injury but started at first base Monday. The senior had a sac fly, a fly out, ground out and also walked and scored a run.

"Little by little," Dickey said of Knightley's return to full strength. "He's at first base right now. It's week-to-week and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we'll see him in the middle of the infield, and maybe pitching."

Rasmussen added a two-run single in the sixth inning to his strong pitching performance. 

Roberson, Santa Maria's first-year coach who spent the last 12 seasons coaching softball all over the Santa Maria Valley, used a slew of pitchers after Monday's game got out of hand. It appeared he was saving ace Tommy Herrera for Tuesday's matchup against St. Joseph. 

The Saints are particularly young this year with Herrera, sophomore catcher Brayan Nunez and first baseman Austin Peinado expected to lead the way as Santa Maria transitions from the now disbanded to the Ocean League.

Herrera is the lone holdover from the Saints' 2017 team that won the CIF Southern Section Division 6 title. 

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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