By Kyle Howie
Down three runs before the sound of the National Anthem had faded, the Foresters “clutched up” and rallied to defeat the Orange County Riptide in a tight 4-3 ballgame on Thursday night. The two top teams in the CCL South division battled for the second time in three days, but Santa Barbara came out on top, extending its win streak to nine and holding on to first place in the CCL South. A four-run fourth overcame the Riptide’s three-run first in a game marked by solid defense and timely hitting by the Foresters.
Zane Petty, the starting pitcher for the Foresters, bounced back from a rocky start to earn the win. Petty started the game by allowing 3 runs to the first 5 batters he faced. Petty did not allow the nightmare start to determine the story of the game. After the 3 runs, Petty struck out 9 batters, allowed 1 hit, and no earned runs through his remaining innings. Pitching into the sixth, Petty had the longest start by a Forester pitcher thus far. The baton was passed to Zach Yates who pitched 3 hitless innings before Sean Youngerman came on to close the game in the 9th inning and picked up the save.
The offense did its job not long after OC grabbed the early lead. The big blow was Greg Pace’s 3-run no-doubter over the left field wall that tied the game at 3-3. “I knew the job had to be done and I knew I had to clutch up,” said Pace. “Feeling the ball off of the bat and hearing the roar from my teammates was a beautiful feeling.” Will Rogers and Rocco Garza-Gongora scored on Pace’s homer after they both singled. But the Sters were not done. Gianni Horvat extended the 2-out rally with a single to left. After Horvat stole second with his CCL-leading 12th swipe, Daniel Patterson drove a single to center field, allowing Horvat to score what turned out to be the game-winning run.
The defense for the Foresters saved the day in the 9th inning. Max Belyeu hosed Daniel Garate from right field as Garate tried to stretch a single into a double. A 6-4-3 double play then ended the game.
So many times this season, the pitching for the ‘Sters has kept the offense in the game, and on Thursday it was the offense’s turn to have their pitcher’s backs. The Foresters are playing true team baseball as they enter the heart of their season.
The first-place Santa Barbara Foresters will start a three-game weekend series with the Arroyo Seco Saints on Friday, June 30. The game will start at 6:00 p.m. at Pershing Park and the game can be heard live on AM 1290 radio; or listen online or stream live via the Foresters’ website, www.sbforesters.org. The series continues with a Saturday road game at 6:05 and Sunday’s wrap-up back at Pershing at 2 pm.