By Sasha Steinberg
San Luis’ (31-10, 20-9) Dakota Hudson shut down the Foresters’ (29-8, 24-6) bats for the first four innings leading the Blues to an 8-4 victory in front of an energetic crowd at Sinsheimer Park on Thursday night. A combination of sloppy defense and a lack of production at the plate cost Santa Barbara their sixth league loss of the season as the ‘Sters committed four errors in the first two innings of the ball game.
Santa Barbara was also held hitless through four and two third innings until a late inning rally in the fifth. Nonetheless, the ‘Sters are now 24-6 in league play which is still good enough for the best record in the California Coastal League (CCL).
The Blues who have now won their fifth consecutive game jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back as they nabbed their twentieth league win of the season and inched closer to the ‘Sters in the standings. Santa Barbara is now 4-2 against the Blues this season and lead their rivals by three and a half games in the Central division.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, Taylor Anderson grounded to second basemen Ford Stainback who bobbled the ball and then threw past the first allowing two runs to score. One batter later, Mitchell Williams grounded to shortstop Dillon Dobson who threw the ball in the dirt to first base allowing two more runs to score putting the Blues up 4-0 in the first inning.
In the bottom of the second, Dobson made his second error of the day on an identical throw in the dirt to first base allowing Jeff Moberg to reach first safely. After a strike out, a walk, and a hit by pitch, the bases were loaded for Austin O’Brien who caused deja vu to happen once more. O’Brien hit the ball to shortstop Dobson who again threw the ball in the dirt allowing Moberg to score, which put the Foresters in a 5-0 hole.
Dobson clearly wasn’t himself, as it seemed a lingering injury kept him from being able to throw the ball as well as he normally does. He had three throwing errors in less than two innings. As a result Foresters coach Bill Pintard elected to take Dobson out of the game. Stainback moved to shortstop and Troy Cruz came into the game to play second base.
The Blues’ bats were putting a toll on Foresters’ Kenny Chapman who was not getting much help from his defense and was totaling around 100 pitches by the third inning. Even though he had struck out six and had not given up an earned run, he had yielded five walks and his pitch count was enough for Coach Pintard to send in relief.
With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, Foresters’ Ryan Helsley came into pitch for Chapman. After battling with Blues’ Niko Pacheco, Helsely struck him out to get the ‘Sters out of the jam and end the inning.
Hudson carried a no hitter into the fifth inning, however Santa Barbara’s Jaylin Davis had something to say about that. The Foresters finally came alive in the fifth and got their first hit of the day when Davis smashed a groundball down the right field line with two outs scoring A.J. Balta from second and Jake Vickerson from first.
The next batter Ford Stainback worked the count to three and two before crushing a hard line drive single scoring Davis from third and cutting the Blues lead to 5-3.
In the bottom half of the inning with two outs and men on first and second, A.J. Balta made a spectacular diving catch in left field to save a run.
The ‘Sters were able to shut down the Blues’ bats for a bit, however in the bottom of the sixth sloppy play would once again prove costly for Santa Barbara. The Blues scored their sixth run of the day on a wild pitch from Blake Goins. The ensuing batter Connor O’Hare added to the damage with a bloop single to center scoring Austin O’Brien from third extending the Blues’ lead to 7-3.
After a bunt single by Jeff Moberg in the seventh, Blake Goins walked three consecutive batters in the bottom of the sixth putting the Blues up 8-3. Cody Van Aken then came into relieve Goins and got the Foresters out of the jam.
In a ninth inning come back attempt by the Foresters, Ford Stainback hit a hard fly ball single to right field scoring Jake Vickerson from third. However, the ‘Sters rally ended abruptly as the next batter Cruz grounded into a double play to end the game.
Though Hudson pitched perfect through four, Max Gibbs (1-0) was credited with his first win of the season for the Blues since Hudson failed to pitch five complete innings. Gibbs only pitched a third of an inning recording one strike out.
The ‘Sters look to bounce back on Friday when they face off at home against the PUF Capitalists (12-16, 9-16). First pitch is at 5:05pm.