After a much needed day off, the Santa Barbara Foresters headed down to Cal Lutheran University for the first matchup of the season with the rival Conejo Oaks. Sloppy play by the Oaks allowed the Foresters take a five-run first inning lead, but poor pitching would allow the Oaks to climb back to win 9-8.
In the first inning, Garrett Mattlage laid down a beautiful bunt single to the third base side and Tyler Krieger earned a nine-pitch walk to put men at first and second with one out. From there, the Oaks’ defensive implosion pushed a steady stream of Foresters across the plate.
Ryan O’Hearn’s grounder to second took a bad hop and bounced to the outfield, scoring Mattlage and allowing Krieger to reach third. Jerry McClanahan grounded to third and the ball wound up in right field on an errant throw where Oaks right fielder Luke Swensen booted the ball for a second error on the play.
When the play came to its merciful end, McClanahan stood safely at second with both Krieger and O’Hearn in for runs. Austin Darby ripped a single to center to score McClanahan and the fourth and final error of the first inning allowed Darby to reach second. After Keaton Jones struck out, Colt Atwood drove in the fifth run of the inning on a single.
Before taking the mound, starter Jace James had already been spotted a 5-0 lead. He gave up one run in the second before a tough third and final inning where he gave up three, including a two-run homer that flew over the right center field fence. James’ day ended with four strikeouts, but seven hits in his three innings of work.
Another couple of questionable defensive plays for the Oaks brought another run home in the third. O’Hearn hit a ball to the right side and Oaks second baseman Cody Ramer had to smother the ball. Darby reached on an error, the fifth of the game, by Oaks shortstop Nick Lovullo. Atwood singled again, this time driving in O’Hearn and finished the game 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Parker French replaced James in the fourth with little success, ceding five runs and the lead before recording an out in the inning. With one out in the inning, French left and Cal State Fullerton’s Willie Kuhl entered. Kuhl earned All-American honors from the National Baseball Congress for his work in the 2012 NBC World Series. He escaped the inning with no further damage, but the Oaks took a 9-6 lead they would hold from there on.
Oaks’ starter Sheldon Ekstrand left after four innings and Marco Pierce replaced him in his first appearance of the season. The Foresters greeted him with two runs of their own in the fifth inning as they climbed back into the game after falling behind.
The march of arms continued as Avery Ortiz entered in the sixth for the Oaks. His luck fared better as he threw a scoreless inning before the Oaks threw out Jared Lee for the seventh and eighth. The fielding miscues continued as McClanahan reached on another error and Jones was safe at first on an infield single. However, the Foresters couldn’t move anyone in as Atwood and Lechich both struck out and the final threat came to an end.
Pacific righty Patrick Weigel settled the game down with a pair of scoreless innings and struck out three. Riley Ferrell entered in the eighth and continued to blow balls by batters, striking out the side.