By Will Bashur
The Foresters came from behind yet again to hand the Blues a gut-wrenching 11-7 loss Thursday night. With the win, Santa Barbara swept the season series and defeated San Luis Obispo for the twelfth consecutive time dating back to last year. The significant victory also gave the ’Sters the coveted number one seed for next week’s CCL Playoffs.
But it took some clutch hitting, stellar relief pitching, and a lot of grit before the ’Sters could pull out the brooms.
The Blues were the first to strike, as some sloppy defense helped them take the lead in the first. Leadoff man Hunter Swift reached on an error by Santa Barbara shortstop Tevin Tucker, and after Ruben Mercado struck out, advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt by starter Jake Jackson. Taison Corio grounded out to second, allowing Swift to scamper home and putting the Blues up 1-0.
Santa Barbara immediately responded in the second as Zach Presno started things off with a sharp single. After Spencer Jones flew out, Jacob Katzfey dumped a single into left to put runners on the corners with just one out. Dru Baker slashed a triple down the right field line, scoring Jones and Katzfey to give the Foresters a 2-1 lead. Tucker kept the big inning going with a pop up single that dropped in front of the center fielder Swift, driving in Baker and extending the lead to 3-0.
The Blues, clearly unhappy with surrendering the lead, erupted for five runs in the bottom of the second.
Catcher Myles Emmerson began the offensive outburst with a double that rattled against the left field wall. Tanner Lindsly hit a single to put runners on first and third, and TJ Rumfield smacked a double of his own to score Emmerson, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Julian Bury floated a single over the third baseman Baker’s head to score Lindsly and Rumfield, putting the Blues back on top, 4-3. The inning continued when another ground ball ate up Tucker and rolled into the outfield, allowing Bury to easily score San Luis Obsipo’s fifth run. Corio added the final run of the inning on a fielder’s choice, and when all the dust had settled the Blues were up 6-3 at the end of two.
But the Foresters’ bats were just getting warmed up.
In the top of the third, Presno began a two-out rally by drawing a walk with Jones waiting patiently on deck. Jones, wasting no time at all, launched the first pitch he saw into the lower stratosphere. The home run was Jones’s second in two days, and gave the ’Sters new life with the score now 6-5 Blues.
The Blues tacked on an insurance run in the fifth when Lindsly hit a sac fly to drive in Corio. Lindsly’s first RBI of the day gave San Luis Obispo a bit more breathing room with a 7-5 lead.
Santa Barbara wouldn’t respond until the eighth, when they were finally able to solve the spellbinding Tyler Chivens. Chivens had just struck out seven Foresters over three straight shutout innings, and was eager to put up another zero. But Jones and Katzfey quickly ended those thoughts with two straight singles to start the inning. Tucker was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with just one out for Ryan ‘ATM’ Cash. Cash delivered a clutch two-run single to pull the ’Sters within one, 7-6. Chivens then ran out of gas as Eric Kennedy roped a single back up the middle to drive in Katzfey and Tucker, reclaiming the lead for Santa Barbara, 8-7.
The nightmarish inning continued for the Blues when Emmerson’s attempt to throw out a stealing Kennedy skirted into center field, allowing Cash to score and extending the Foresters’ lead to 9-7.
The downtrodden Blues were unable to respond as all the life had been sucked out of the crowd at Sinsheimer Park. The ’Sters instead added two more insurance runs to go up 11-7 in the ninth with a screaming double off the bat of Tucker.
Hunter Breault entered in the bottom of the ninth and promptly retired the side in fourteen pitches, picking up two strikeouts while closing out the Foresters’ final visit to San Luis Obispo.
Santa Barbara will conclude their four-game road trip with a visit to Thousand Oaks tomorrow. They will face the Conejo Oaks for the final time this season at 5 PM. Be sure to tune into AM 1290 to catch all the action.