By Jim Buckley (photo by Kylie Koeper)
This thing just got interesting.
After rolling over its opponents with abandon for two weeks, the Foresters finally found themselves in a baseball battle on Saturday night against the Santa Maria Pea Soup. Thanks to a thrilling three-run comeback in the bottom of the eighth, the Foresters won 3-2 and ran their record to 10-1. With 14 more games against the Pea Soup in the coming weeks, the Foresters’ season has zoomed into focus.
The late comeback started at the top. Leadoff legends SS Matthew McLain and 2B Jace Jung smacked back-to-back singles. After 3B Payton Graham grounded out, 1B Branden Boissiere drove a ball over the leftfielder’s head. McLain scored easily but Jung still had to hold up awaiting a possible catch. When the ball hit the ground, Jung turned on the jets and slid home just ahead of the tag by the catcher to the tie the score. C Noah Cardenas followed with a long sacrifice fly to left to score Boissiere for what proved to be the winning run.
Manager Bill Pintard wanted to make special note of Graham’s at-bat. The 5-3 putout might seem unimportant, but it set up what followed. “Graham battled back from 0-2 to ground out on a full-count pitch to move his teammates up,” said Pintard. “That was a huge play.”
With the lead in hand, reliever Sean Mullen closed things out with a 1-2-3 ninth.
“It was really good for us to get tested, it was good for us to be behind, to be down and then to come back,” said a smiling Pintard. “The Foresters never say die, we always keep plugging away, so it’s great to see this team continuing that tradition. I smelled it a little bit that we were going to get him.”
Ahead of the comeback inning, the game had turned on two plays. In the second, the Foresters completed an outstanding 7-6-2 play to cut down a run. LF Spencer Jones tracked down a long double and hit McLain for the relay. The UCLA standout then hit Cardenas right in the mitt. If there had been fans in the stands, they would have erupted at the inning-ending play.
The other key play was a two-run homer by DH Nick Gatewood in the fourth that gave the Pea Soup the lead. It came off starter Luke Taggart, who was otherwise excellent, scattering five hits while striking out four. Jackson Cunningham threw two scoreless innings before Mullen’s late-inning heroics.
“It was fun to watch that comeback and a fun game to close out,” said Mullen. the UCLA righty. “Every inning I pitch I’m in attack mode, just go after hitters. Being in the ninth-inning or a closer situation, it’s always that mentality for me.”
With the mentality that they have the power to come back against a good team—the Pea Soup sent out two pitchers with professional experience—and the mentality to continue attacking, the Foresters set themselves up for a good rivalry with Santa Maria in the weeks ahead. The series continues on Sunday with a 2 pm start. Tune in to KCSB.org/sports for all the action.