By Will Bashur
The Foresters watched Fourth of July works a day early, as they saw the OC Riptide explode for six runs in the eighth inning to sink the ’Sters to a 7-4 loss on the Third of July.
Santa Barbara had put together a tidy 4-1 lead early. It began in the first, when Nick Bellafronto hit a soaring no-doubter to left, giving the ’Sters a 1-0 lead before many fans had taken their seats. The Riptide responded in the bottom half of the frame, as Michael Peabody unloaded on a Jake Jackson fastball to knot the game at 1-1.
But the Foresters extended their lead in the second. Blake Hall and Ross Cadena knocked back-to-back singles to begin the inning. After Riptide starter Devin Sutorius threw a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third, Dru Baker hit a bouncing ball to the right side, driving in Hall and reclaiming the lead for the ’Sters, 2-1. Conor McKenna then stepped into the box and dumped a broken-bat single over the head of the shortstop, scoring Cadena and growing the lead to 3-1.
The third inning saw more scoring for the Foresters, as Eric Kennedy and Bellafronto picked up two straight singles to put Sutorius in a quick jam. Christian Franklin then hit hard grounder back up the middle, driving in Kennedy to increase Santa Barbara’s advantage to 4-1.
Foresters starter Jackson had settled down nicely since giving up the first-inning home run and had thrown five consecutive shutout innings. Jackson utilized his full arsenal and located his pitches well, striking out five Riptide batters while walking just one. After Jacob Burton threw a scoreless seventh, the Foresters looked to be sitting firmly in the driver’s seat.
But it was a whole new ballgame in the eighth, as string of walks lit the fuse on the Riptide comeback.Burton started the inning by walking Max Ferguson, then gave up a single to Carson Matthews. The Arkansas hurler then threw a wild fastball to the backstop, allowing both runners to advance. Peabody then drew another walk, loading the bases with no one out. The walk prompted manager Bill Pintard to emerge from the dugout and summon fellow Razorback Elijah Trest from the bullpen.
Trest got a quick out, but that was the calm before the storm. With the bases still loaded, Trest walked Dylan Rock to force in a run. Andre Antone then blasted a bases-clearing double off the wall, giving the Riptide their first lead of the game, 5-4. The devastating blow rattled Trest, who was called for a balk before Connor Aoki launched a two-run homer to left, putting the Riptide up 7-4 after an astonishing turn of events.
The Foresters were unable to recover from Orange County’s six-run barrage, as Riptide closer Marrick Crouse struck out two ’Sters in the ninth to seal the 7-4 win.
Santa Barbara will look to bounce back tomorrow on Independence Day. Be sure to tune into AM 1290 at 4:30 PM to catch all the action.