By Harry Croton
Compared to the white-hot Foresters lineup, the 84-degree Pasadena air felt almost frigid as Santa Barbara steamrolled the Arroyo Seco Saints 9-3. Capped by John Jensen’s third-inning grand slam, the win was the ’Sters fifth straight to open 2018.
Santa Barbara came into this contest at 4-0, averaging 10 runs per game while hitting a robust .367 as a team.
The third inning spelled the difference on Wednesday, as Christian Gambale, Logan Allen, and Luke Ritter loaded the bases for left fielder John Jensen, who proceeded to club a no-doubter grand slam deep over the right field wall. Jensen, who also ripped an RBI single to right in the fifth and stole a base, finished the day with a team-high 5 RBI, and was awarded EP-19 Player of the Game honors.
That broke up a scoreless start put up by opposing pitchers Dane Acker for Santa Barbara and Colin King. The Saints’ starter delivered a 1-2-3 1st inning on just seven pitches, while Acker, making his Foresters debut and first start since early May, worked around a leadoff walk to retire the next three Arroyo Seco hitters with ease.
“I felt really good given how long it had been since my last outing,” said Rice University’s Acker. “I was trying to be a little too perfect in the early going, but with every pitch I felt like things got more comfortable. I was even throwing my change-up for consistent strikes, which has been my biggest goal to improve on this summer.”
Acker walked two in his four innings of work, and allowed three hits (all singles) to finish with just one run earned and three strikeouts.
Foresters reliever James Notary was credited with the win, as he turned in three innings of two-run ball in support of Acker. Perhaps the biggest mound story of the day was the long-awaited debut of Matt Hartman, who came on to throw a scoreless inning in his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery back in April 2017. The fan favorite induced a quick double play after a leadoff walk, and proceeded to strike the final batter out swinging, amid cheers and applause from teammates and traveling fans. Westmont’s Bailey Reed came in to pitch a clean ninth and send the ’Sters home victorious.
Among offensive stars, leadoff man Logan Allen finished with two hits and scored three more runs, giving him six in the two-game serires. He also chipped in a pair of stolen bases to increase his team-leading total to six.
The Foresters will hit the road once more Thursday, this time to face the defending CCL champion Orange County Riptide for the first meeting between the two clubs this year, with first pitch set for 4:30pm. Tune into AM 1290 at 5:00pm for the action.