The Santa Barbara Foresters had one goal when they headed to Wichita for the 82nd NBC World Series: Dogpile.
With a dominating 6-2 win over the Hays Larks, it was mission accomplished. The Foresters claimed their record-tying sixth national championship. Lefty pitcher Jacob Patterson made his first start for the team and was superb, throwing seven shutout innings. The Foresters offense gave him lots of support, staking him to a 4-0 lead after two innings and playing perfect defense behind him.
The final out of the championship game and the Foresters’ 2016 season came on a ground ball to first baseman Hunter Williams. He tossed the ball to relief pitcher Cody Crouse, who beat the Larks’ Michael Burns to the bag.
Cue the dogpile.
“Number six is all good, but this was number one for this team,” said an enthusiastic and Gatorade-drenched manager Bill Pintard. “These guys from the beginning of the year, they just worked so hard and cared for each other so much. They genuinely loved each other. They were consistently unselfish. I knew in my heart that this team was going to do it.”
They did it with superb pitching (earning the NBC World Series award for best pitching staff), clutch hitting (three two-out RBI hits in the final game alone), outstanding defense (another NBC award as the top fielding club), team speed (14 stolen bases in six games), and the kind of unselfish, joyous, hard-charging baseball for which the Foresters have come to be known in their more than two decades of excellence.
The championship game Saturday night capped off a very unusual morning-evening doubleheader. To reach the final, the Foresters had to win one of the most thrilling games in their history. In the semifinal against the San Diego Force, the Foresters had to rally from a 4-0 deficit before tying the game in the eighth inning on a Colby Barrick pinch-hit double. Then in the 12th, the Force took a 6-4 lead. In the bottom of that inning, though, the Foresters got a two-RBI single from Bret Boswell and a two-out, walkoff single from Lex Kaplan for a dramatic 7-6 that ended at 4:25 am Wichita time.
“The way this team plays, everyone is fighting for each other,” said relief pitcher Jackson Sigman, who shut down the Larks through most of his extra-innings stint. “I was happy to be able to be a part of that. When I got in trouble in the twelfth, I knew that they’d be there to back me up.”
That all-over team success gave the ’Sters the chance to go for the dogpile.
To capture the title, the Foresters called on one of their many team sayings. The Foresters have a lot of them: ’Ster it up! Z’all good! Pass the rope! Another one that Pintard uses often is “two-out hits win championships.” Proof positive came in this game, as the Foresters drove in the team’s first five runs on just that type of hit.
In the first inning, Kaplan, the hero of Saturday’s (very) earlier semifinal, ripped a two-out single off the first baseman’s glove to drive in centerfielder Kyle Isbel with the championship game’s first run. Leftfielder Dylan Paul then lofted a high floater to right center that fell among three Larks to score two more runs.
In the third, Isbel got his own two-out RBI, a long triple to the right-centerfield gap that scored shortstop Matt Henderson. Then Henderson did the same in the fourth, scoring Hank LoForte with a triple of his own to make it 5-0 Foresters through four innings.
Third baseman Bret Boswell drove in the Foresters’ sixth run, his 14th of the World Series, which led all players. Following the game, Boswell won the NBC World Series award for most RBI.
Starting pitcher Patterson played his regular season with the Conejo Oaks and was added to the Foresters staff for the World Series. He proved to be a great add. Though Patterson allowed runners to get into scoring position in each of the first two innings, he closed both innings with strikeouts. He closed out another threat in the fifth by picking a runner off first and then struck out leftfielder Nate Olinger for the final out of the inning. Patterson finished seven shutout innings with just six hits while striking out five.
“This was such a great experience,” Patterson said. “My catcher Steven Coe did such a great job calling the game. That was one of the best I’ve had behind the plate. My defense just swallowed up everything that got hit out there. It was fantastic.”
Second-year Foresters reliever Cody Crouse wrapped up the final two innings, allowing the only two runs of the game before putting his big frame at the bottom of the pile.
Santa Barbara had previously won titles in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2014. This 2016 championship ties them with the Fairbanks Goldpanners for the most in the storied history of this summer tournament. The Foresters also extended their streak of finishing in the tournament’s top four to 14 years. This year, the Foresters were a perfect 6-0, winning three games by the tournament mercy rules, outscoring their opponents 50-12, and ringing up an astounding 68 total hits in six games.
The team celebrated into the wee hours in Wichita, a well-deserved blowout after a summer of success.
“The support that the community gave us this year was really appreciated,” added Pintard before the party started. “We loved all the texts and tweets and Facebook posts, we could feel it here. The host families were staying in touch. It takes a community to run the Foresters, and we’re so grateful that we play in such a wonderful town. This was a challenging year, since it was our last year at UCSB. We don’t know where we’ll be next year, but we know we’ll have the community’s support no matter where it is.”
Some of the 2016 Foresters will not come back to Santa Barbara for weeks, months, or perhaps ever. They head into their futures to await their championship rings and continue their college careers and successful lives. Some of the Foresters, including Pintard, will climb aboard the ’Ster Bus on Sunday afternoon for the long but very, very happy ride home.
They arrive at their destination with another trophy for the crowded shelf—mission accomplished indeed. —Jim Buckley
Foresters Win Several NBC World Series Awards
Top Pitching Staff (Lowest ERA)
Top Defensive Team
RBI Leader, Bret Boswell
Top Pro Prospect: Kyle Johnston
Championship Game MVP: Jacob Patterson
Manager of the Year: Bill Pintard
The Eric Pintard Most Inspirational Award is awarded annually by the NBC World Series in honor of the Foresters’ late pitcher and coach who co-founded the Hugs for Cubs. Bill Pintard was on hand Friday when Michael Burns of the Hays Larks won this year’s award. Burns came back from an operation for cancer earlier this year to make it back to the field and play for Hays in this tournament. “Michael really epitomizes the spirit that Eric brought to the game and we’re very proud that give him this award in Eric’s honor,” said Bill Pintard.