By Harry Croton
On a beautiful Sunday at Pershing Park, the undefeated Foresters welcomed their first California Collegiate League opponent of 2018—the undefeated Healdsburg Prune Packers. Beneath clear skies and in front of packed bleachers, strong performances from the Santa Barbara bullpen, combined with persistence and power at the plate, led to a hard-fought 11-7 victory.
The game—sponsored by Investec—marked the Foresters pitching debut of Oklahoma State sophomore Brett Standlee, a tough assignment for the young right hander against a Healdsburg club that was 6-0 to start the season, including 2-0 in CCL play. Making his first start in several weeks, Standlee exhibited excellent control and exceptional composure, notching 6 strikeouts while allowing just 2 hits over 3 innings of one-run ball.
The ’Sters bats provided Standlee and his relievers with consistent run support from the get-go, scoring at least once in each of the first six innings (and seven of the eight in which they batted). A big shot early was the team’s first homer of the season by red-hot C/DH Chase Illig, who finished the day 3 for 5 and now sports a .615 average on 8 hits (4 extra-base hits) through the team’s first 3 contests.
First baseman Isaac Coffey, who started and won Saturday’s game on the mound, added 3 hits of his own and a pair of runs scored to help build on Sunday’s 11-run effort.
Michael Hobbs, Sunday’s winning pitcher, turned in 2 scoreless frames for his Foresters debut in relief of Standlee. Following Hobbs’s exit, a 6-run rally by the Packers in the top of the sixth cut the Santa Barbara lead to one, but the ‘Sters bounced back with 3 runs of their own in the bottom of the frame to hold the score at 10-6 heading into the seventh. A key hit in the rally was a two-run double by Luke Ritter, the 2017 Foresters MVP making his 2018 debut.
In the seventh, Healdsburg tacked on an extra run on a throwing error, which created a potential save situation and an important decision for head coach Bill Pintard. After the first two Prune Packers reached base, Pintard chose to send out Tennessee right-hander Chase Wallace, who was no stranger to high-leverage situations with the Volunteers.
Wallace hit a batter to load the bases, but then was bailed out by a fabulous 5-2-3 double play and a groundout to end the threat. Wallace then tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his first save of the year.
“It felt really good knowing that [Coach Pintard] had that kind of trust in me,” Wallace said after the game. “I just wanted to pound the zone with my fastball and use my curve to stymie hitters late in the count—it was a situation where every single pitch was important, and I just felt more comfortable with every additional hitter I faced.”
Along with Isaac Coffey and Illig, hitting stars included John Jensen and his three hits and two RBI, along with Logan Allen’s two-hit, two-run game. Second baseman Christian Gambale had a pair of hits and made the web gem of the day to steal a hit with a leaping grab of a high line drive. On the bases, the Foresters ran wild, stealing six bases, including two by Jensen. Four errors were not a highlight, but when your pitching, hitting, and baserunning do so well, you can absorb a little ugly.
The Foresters are now 3-0 on the year, and will have an off-day on Monday before hitting the road to face the Arroyo Seco Saints for a 2-game series starting Tuesday. Tune in to AM 1290 to hear the Coastal Copy Pregame Show beginning at 5:50 pm.