By Dillon Reagan
Photos by Eric Isaacs
The Santa Barbara Foresters finished just a few wins away from their third consecutive NBC World Series championship in 2013, but the team provided numerous memorable moments for their fans in what was another successful season for one of the premier organizations in all of summer collegiate baseball.
The ’Sters came out of the gate scorching hot, winning their first eight games while allowing just a little over one run per game. This pitching performance early on was not a fluke, as Santa Barbara hurlers dominated opposing batters to the tune of a 2.51 ERA for the season.
Their demolition of all competition was halted when California Collegiate League play began, as injuries to key hitters Tyler Krieger and Jacob Felts, along with some tough, close losses forced the Foresters to regroup going forward. During that span, Santa Barbara lost five games by a total of just eight runs.
The team hit its stride on June 28, as Santa Barbara swept the weekend series over the MLB Academy Barons in what was the beginning of a twelve-game run in which S.B. went 11-1. Highlights included a Rawlings California Cup championship and three straight wins over the rival San Luis Obispo Blues. The Foresters bats were rolling and manager Bill Pintard could not stop smiling.
With all four teams in a heated race for the CCL North title down the stretch, the Foresters won seven of their last ten games against division opponents to reach the first-ever CCL Championship Series, clinching the North Division on the final day with a 7-1 victory over the Santa Paula Halos in front of a huge crowd at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. Unfortunately, the ’Sters lost two games to the Los Angeles Brewers in the league championship series. However, their 2013 Rawlings title, along with being the defending national champs, meant that for the 19th straight season, the Foresters would play in the NBC World Series.
In Wichita, the Foresters dominated the opposition for the first three games of the NBC World Series, not allowing a single run in any of the games. Foresters’ pitching went 28 straight scoreless innings. In the final game in the winner’s bracket, Santa Barbara fell to the Seattle Studs 3-2 in a matchup full of suspense and controversy. The loss seemed to linger with the team the next day, as they fell 4-1 to the El Dorado Broncos, despite a valiant comeback attempt in the ninth inning. The loss eliminated the Foresters from the NBC World Series, giving them a tie for fourth place. It was the tenth consecutive season in which Santa Barbara has finished among the top four at the NBC World Series, a stunning streak of success that includes four national championships and three second-place finishes.
Despite a disappointing end to the season, many players had summers that certainly impressed their college coaches and big-league scouts alike. Leading the team in batting average (minimum, 100 AB) was Louie Lechich, who finished .317 with 7 doubles, 4 home runs, and 35 RBIs. Lechich was awarded the team’s MVP award as well as First-Team honors on the 2013 CCL All-League team.
In a pitching staff full of players with phenomenal season performances, Duke starter Drew Van Orden stood out as the ace. Leading the team with a 1.12 ERA, Van Orden won 5 games with an amazing .911 WHIP, .173 batting-average-against, and 72 strikeouts, the second-most in Santa Barbara Foresters history. Like Lechich, Van Orden was named on the First-Team CCL All-League team and was given the Eric Pintard Award as the team’s best pitcher.
At the NBC World Series, Texas fireballer Parker French and Sam Houston St. product Colt Atwood earned some accolades of their own. French was named the tournament’s top pitching prospect, and Atwood received all-tournament honors, hitting .500 with 3 stolen bases.
In the CCL, the Foresters not only won on the field, but received a bounty of awards off of it as well. Out of the league’s top 10 pitching prospects, 5 of them were Sters. Despite his short stay with the team, Riley Ferrell was named the top pitching prospect in the CCL. Following him were teammates Patrick Weigel (2nd), Parker French (3rd), Drew Van Orden (5th), and Nick Kern (9th). For the league’s top offensive prospect honors, Ryan O’Hearn finished second and Ben Johnson was eighth.
As for the All-League teams, the ’Sters had members of the First Team—Van Orden, Lechich, Shane Hoelscher, and Hunter Lemke; and seven on the Second Team— Andrew Godail, Garrett Mattlage, Atwood, B. Johnson, Tejay Antone, Kern, and Weigel; and two on the Third Team—O’Hearn and Keaton Siomkin.
Perhaps what these players gained most from their summer in Santa Barbara was the relationships they forged with one another and the coaches. The common sentiment was that playing for the ’Sters was one of the best experiences they’ve had in baseball, and that this was one of the tightest clubhouses they had ever been a part of. This reflects the tradition that manager Bill Pintard has created with the Foresters over the years, as players across the country hear from the alumni about the team’s culture and hope that they, too, can be a part of the Forester experience.