By Will Bashur
You could watch an awful lot of baseball games and not see one end the way the Foresters-Buccaneers battle did Friday night. With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, the ’Sters won on a unique walk-off strikeout to extend their season-opening win streak to seven. With John Jensen at the plate with two outs, a swinging strike three eluded the Ventura catcher, who then threw the ball away trying to retire Jensen. Luke Ritter scampered home from second base with yes . . . a 5-4 walk-off strikeout win. “I just didn’t stop,” said Ritter, still wet from a postgame Gatorade shower. “We were told to not stop running so that’s what I did. I’m glad we responded and got the W.”
Before the final-pitch fireworks, starting pitcher Isaac Coffey led the way for Santa Barbara, dazzling the home crowd and displaying masterful command—including a devastating array of off-speed pitches—to keep the Buccaneers off balance and scoreless through five innings.
The ‘Sters backed Coffey with solid run support. First baseman Tyler Hardman kicked off the scoring with a two-run single in the bottom of the first. By the sixth inning, the ‘Sters had built a 4-0 lead, and appeared to be poised for yet another blowout victory.
However, unlike previous opponents, the resilient Buccaneers were not willing to go down without a fight. Manager Bill Pintard was ejected in the bottom of the seventh arguing an interference call that took a run off the scoreboard. Not long after, the Buccaneers’ dormant offense awoke, tacking on three runs in the eighth off Foresters reliever Noah Gotsis. The big blow was a game-tying, two-run homer by titanic Dalton Duerte that sailed well over the right field fence.
The Foresters sent out southpaw Brad Demco to preserve the tie. Demco, in his third appearance, delivered and set the scene for a wild bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Ritter grounded to short, but an error on the shortstop sent Ritter to second base. A few pitches later, with the crowd urging on the Foresters, that third strike squirted to the backstop, and Ritter raced from second to home to win the game.
The Foresters will look to continue their fast start to the 2018 campaign Saturday as they take on the San Luis Obispo Blues in a pivotal California Collegiate League matchup at Pershing Park. First pitch is 6 pm. Tune into 1290 AM for complete radio coverage starting at 5:50 P.M. with the Coastal Copy Pregame Show.