By Blythe Hastings; photo by Eric Isaacs
With the Foresters and Barons tied 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth on Friday night, Santa Barbara’s most trusted hitter, Kevin Bazzell (pictured), blasted a ninth-inning double over the head of the centerfielder to score Hudson White and start a walk-off celebration in the outfield for the new kings of the CCL South. The hard-fought victory over a very game Barons club clinched a division title for the Foresters for the tenth straight season. The Foresters had taken the lead in the fifth, but the Barons had battled back to tie and set up the dramatic ninth.
In fact, the Barons signaled early that the Foresters were in for a fight when they scored in the first off Foresters starter Parker Smith. With a Barons leadoff star Kamau Neighbors on first, a routine base hit took an unlucky hop over rightfielder Sebastian Orduno, turning into a triple, allowing Neighbors to score the game’s first run.
In the second, the Foresters tied it up when Will Pendergrass smacked the first of his two hits, a line drive double into shallow right center field to score Hunter Ensley, who had walked.
Smith settled down, eventually striking out eight while allowing just two hits. Opposing starter Hunter Holmes often baffled the Foresters, striking out six in all, and also leaving the bases loaded in the fifth.
The Foresters took the lead in the fifth. With White on third after a walk and two free bags due to two wild pitches. Griffin Everitt chopped a grounder to third that clanged off the third baseman’s glove for a run-scoring error. Nate Rombach followed this with a single to push Everitt to second. Ensley then drove a ball into the right field corner for a ground-rule double to score Everitt and make it 3-1, but Rombach and Ensley were then stranded on base, two more of the too-many 11 left on base by Santa Barbara.
That allowed the Barons to sneak back into the game in the seventh. A one-out double scored a run and then after a groundout, the Barons Doug Allen bounced a ball so high toward third that by the time it came down, the tying run was across and he was safe at first.
The Foresters had a good chance to tie in the eighth, but All-Star Game MVP Miguel Santos and Foreseters home-run leader Gavin Kash both struck out with the bases loaded.
Brandon Beckel had followed Smith, and had allowed the tying runs. Luke Harrison kept the Barons off the board but left a pickle for Chase Webster in ninth. The big righthander took over with two on and no outs and struck out three, though the final K was an odd one, with Neighbors swinging at a pitch that hit him in the leg. Of course, that’s called a dead ball and the end of the inning.
After White walked to lead off the ninth, Bazzell crushed the second pitch he saw far into the looming night, while White sped home with the game-winner.
“It feels special to clinch the title at home and against the Barons,” said manager Bill Pintard. I want to commend them on such a hard-fought game, they really showed up and they are always great competitors.”
The Foresters hope to make this the first of a successful weekend at home. Come to Pershing on Saturday at 6 PM to watch the action in person or tune in to AM 1290 and KZSB FM 96.9.