By Lucas Armstrong
The Foresters and Pearl went back and forth for nine innings, but someone had to win and the Foresters finally did. Santa Barbara Foresters (16-7) knocked off Neptune Beach 7-6 for their third straight win.
The Foresters turned the game in their favor to stay in the eighth. In the top half of the eighth inning, Neptune Beach tied the game at 5-5, but a controversial play at the plate perhaps robbed them of the lead. Pitcher Garrett Gayle threw out Neptune’s Michael Woodworth at the plate, with catcher David Clawson making a spectacular tag. The Pearl protested but to no avail.
The Foresters wasted no time taking advantage of the momentum shift in the bottom half inning, scoring two runs on a triple by Austin Todd and a double by Evan Lee to make it 7-5 before Garrett Gayle closed out the game in ninth.
“We just kept banging,” Foresters manager Bill Pintard said.
Neptune Beach struck first in the top of the second for its first run of the series on a sac fly by shortstop Jacob Chappell. The Foresters, however, would answer back immediately in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI single by Luke Ritter.
In the third, Foresters right fielder Evan Lee gunned out Pearl catcher James Free at home keeping the game tied 1-1
“It was huge,” Pintard said. “That was definitely a momentum shifter.” It would not be the last.
The game stayed tied until the fifth inning when Neptune Beach rallied with two outs to take a 4-1 lead. The ‘Sters chipped away with one run in the bottom half, taking advantge of a pair of wild pitches to score Spencer Steer, making it 4-2.
After an Austin Todd hit-by-pitch and an Evan Lee walk, Josh Jung drove both player in with a three-base rocket to right-center field. Ritter then continued his hot hitting, knocking in Jung on an RBI single for his third hit of the game, giving the Foresters a 5-4 lead, which lasted just a few moments. Ritter finished the game three-for-four with two RBI.
Santa Barbara’s bats proved ultimately to be too much for Neptune Beach tonight taking the win 7-6.
“Ritter had a big night, Todd had a big night, Jung had that hard triple,” Pintard said.
The Foresters will be back in action tomorrow at 2 p.m. for the conclusion of the three-game series with the Neptune Beach Pearl. See you all there at Pershing Park! And a reminder that our Fourth of July game on Tuesday begins at 4:30 p.m.; note the early start time.